Guide Dogs Australia
Creating a digital design system with Guide Dogs.
How we supported Guide Dogs through a national rebrand and unification project.
As an organisation, Guide Dogs is all about moving forward with confidence and optimism. After all, as Australia’s leading provider of vision services, that’s exactly what they support people to do: learn skills to embrace new adventures and live independently. Through a collaborative process, we partnered with the team across Australia to embark on our own exciting journey. The destination? A unified presence following a national rebrand, where every state-based Guide Dogs organisation is closely aligned in aesthetic, terminology and tone-of-voice, digital systems and process, and much more.
- Healthcare, not-for-profit, vision services
- Australia wide
After developing a unified national brand, each state-based organisation—in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria—needed to update and align their digital presence. Historically, each site had a distinctive look and feel, structure, and approach to articulating services throughout their website.
To ensure close alignment and considered digital application of the new Guide Dogs brand, we established and implemented a new digital design system. This flexible system would be used by each of the states in the newly federated model. This included the design and development of all components within the system, guidelines for implementing the brand digitally, and the application of the system across each of the five sites.
A newly unified and highly accessible digital brand for Guide Dogs, with consistent application across all sites: both now and into the future. The design system reflects and upholds the values that underpin the Guide Dogs organisation—excellence in technical accessibility, warmth, kindness and charisma, and inclusive empathy—while ensuring each state draws on a shared pool of digital resources to streamline effort and heighten efficiency moving forward.
First up, we set some strong strategic foundations by carefully analysing every member of the Guide Dogs digital litter.
Orientation, before mobility
Understanding the lay of the land.
One of Guide Dogs’ major vision support services is called Orientation and Mobility Training. ‘Orientation’ comes before ‘mobility’ for a reason—you need to orient yourself before you get moving. The same was true for our approach. To understand the lay of the land, we connected with stakeholders from around the country to establish a wide range of critical insights:
- How many sites, microsites, social media accounts, and other bits and pieces were being managed by each team? Where did the effort in maintaining these sites and assets overlap?
- Were there opportunities to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and make each team more effective?
- How many people were visiting the sites? Where were they coming from? What were they doing? What did they want to do? What challenges were they encountering?
As a community, we’re better together
Guide Dogs is all about moving forward together. So, the move from individual state-based entities to a federated model makes perfect sense.
Beyond being able to pool and share knowledge and resources, uniting in a federated model makes sense from a technical perspective too. Rather than maintain ~five distinct websites, all state-based entities are now cohesive and connected as part of a multisite network.
This gives each state control and independence over their own individual site within the network, while ensuring they all profit from security updates, adjustments to improve the codebase, accessibility considerations, and more. For example, all states now have access to a library of media assets—managed via a centralized repository—which tracks metadata around usage rights, where and when images can be used, and even provides an auditable trail of where certain imagery is populated throughout the multisite network.
“Implementing a multisite network allowed us to consolidate everything into a single platform, while ensuring state-based teams can still diverge functionality for specific business systems as required.”
This creates a wide variety of knock-on benefits too. For example, state-based teams can now optimise their hosting costs, share the rollout of new features across the network, leverage the efficiencies (and value) of a consistent, cohesive brand, and more.
— Jon Trumbull, Senior Systems Engineer
Many parts moving in unison
Design and aesthetic formed a crucial part of the exciting new direction. The iconic Guide Dogs brand stepped forward to improve accessibility, encapsulate community and inclusion, and maintain the roots of a much-loved heritage.
By building a design system—or a palette of replicable ‘building blocks’ that can be flexibly used by all members of the federated model—Guide Dogs can unleash their creativity, building countless types of content, campaigns, and other digital assets. On the flipside, the system ensures cohesion across all parties and activities. Everything looks and feels like part of the same family.
‘The brand is so iconic and renowned in the community. There’s nuance in creating something contemporary while maintaining such a celebrated heritage.’
We pushed the exploration far and wide in partnership with Guide Dogs to ensure that every molecule of the system is true to the values that underpin the organisation. From hover states to error messages, even the smallest components speak to a sense of community, confidence and inclusion.
— Bridget Noonan, Senior Digital Art Director
CONTENT THAT CONNECTS
Accessibility is the hallmark of Guide Dogs. Of course, that refers to technical accessibility, but accessible content—information that anyone can understand—is just as critical.
Guide Dogs is a community organisation; our communities are so vast and variable, proudly filled with people of different backgrounds, experiences and abilities. The site needs to cater for people at different stages of their journey. People who were born with low vision or blindness, people who have experienced a recent change in vision, family members and supporters, clinical practitioners, and more.
Everything from the Information Architecture to the smallest call-to-action is goal-based and easy to understand. And while Guide Dogs practitioners set the highest standards, we strive to avoid overly clinical terminology. For example, rather than say ‘orthoptics services’, we say ‘understanding your level of functional vision’.
Guide Dogs is all about getting where you want to go with ease and confidence; the website should facilitate that as much as the clinical practitioners.
Guide Dogs is a world-leader in vision support services, so it’s crucial their websites live up to the same high benchmark of accessible design and development.
'We used a range of development techniques to support people with all kinds of usability preferences and assistive technologies, like screen readers or keyboard-tabbed navigation.'
‘This included on-the-tools techniques like ensuring appropriate colour contrast and using ARIA attributes, but also connecting with people with blindness or low vision for user testing sessions. There’s so much variability in the way that people use digital products, and true accessibility means building an excellent experience for everyone.’
Guide Dogs’ new multisite network and design system creates proven value. From improved efficiencies and greater scalability to shared resources and more cost-effective technical updates for the future, the Guide Dogs team is perfectly prepared for the next step in their much-loved history.
Perhaps more importantly, our tracking and anecdotal feedback both suggest more people are reaching out to access support services. And, the new sites are encouraging donors to provide more financial support too.
- +59%Average increase in traffic per site
That means nearly 1,000,000 more visitors in total across the network.
- +67%Increase in one-off donations for one state
All sites reported an increase in website donations after the project.
- +177%Increase in website donation revenue for one state
With all states recording substantial increases.
EXPLORE THE NEW GUIDE DOGS NETWORK
In the spirit of Guide Dogs, head over to the new site and see what you can discover along the way.
There are all sorts of interactions, animations, interesting content, and many more surprises waiting for you.
You might even come across some Guide Dog puppies while you navigate the multisite network…
Leading the way in accessible digital products.
Guide Dogs Australia is world-renowned for the quality of their vision support services.
We’re incredibly proud to align with a similar global benchmark, having been awarded Gold for this work in the 2021 International w3 Awards.
The w3 Awards celebrates digital excellence by honouring outstanding websites, marketing, video, mobile sites and apps, social and podcasts created by some of the best interactive agencies worldwide.
The w3 is sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from highly acclaimed media, interactive, advertising, and marketing firms.
This work has been awarded by: