Emma Lawton




The UN is a global name that carries a lot of weight and respect. But their Refugee Agency were struggling with a web presence so unwieldy that their messages were getting lost.

The challenge

The UNHCR site was so inflexible and dated that internal teams were resorting to creating more modern, fit for purpose microsites to share their content. With a wealth of stories to tell, and a library of good quality imagery through which to do it, we had the tools to help them rein in their disperate digital presence and bring the focus, and traffic, back to their main site.

The solution

We engaged with the UNHCR's internal Design and Content teams very early on in the project as they were the ones struggling with the restrictions of the current site. By knowing the sort of content the new site would need to house we could mitigate against them having the same issues again. They were keen for us to create a clean, lasting design that doesn’t rely on fads or styles that will date.

In terms of user experience we needed to find a balance on the home page between brand messaging and dynamic, changing news, blog and social content to keep page visits up and the site fresh. We provided flexibility through modules and templates to allow UNHCR content to be displayed appropriately and to showcase stories when required.

The site also had to engage with everyone from the general public to press and partner organisations all the way up to Government officials so the structure needed to clearly signpost them to the most suitable content on dedicated pages. 

We created 'Emergency' pages to provide information on areas in crisis and to act as a digital factsheet for their users. These pages are content rich and stories are backed up by statistics.

We gave them the means to aggregate content, including social, so it doesn’t sit in pockets on the site.

We helped to establish a tone of voice for the site that is first person and actively involves the user. This helps users feel more welcome and empowered to get involved, whilst helping to clarify the UNHCR’s mandate. For example, instead of saying “UNHCR begins relocation of 50,000 South Sudan refugees in Ethiopia before the rains come” it would read “We are relocating 50,000 South Sudan refugees in Ethiopia before the rains come. Here is how you can help.”

And we ensured that the key journeys and functionality translated well onto mobile devices.