Northumbria in Bloom – the value of whitespace

Today saw the launch of the new Northumbria in Bloom website, just in time for the big awards presentation tomorrow (yes, I do know who won but no, I can’t tell you – you’ll have to check the website tomorrow if you want to find out).

The new website has been many months in the making, and the brief for it was to make it easier to navigate, brighter and more inviting, and also much more secure, since it had been the target of many hacking attempts in recent years.

Making the site easier to navigate

The first requirement was easy enough to sort out.  I simply standardised the navigation so that it had the usual pages (Home, contact and so on), and also so that each of the separate campaigns run by NiB had the same set of sub pages.  I also got rid of the huge amounts of text that were peppered with clickable links, some of which had no equivalent menu item so users were forced to click a complex path to get to the information they wanted.

Finally, I added a new menu that only the Judges can see when they’re logged in – again with lots of menu items rather than clickable text links.

What’s the value of whitespace?

Making the site brighter and more inviting was pretty easy too, given that the old site was so dark and had such a large amount of text.  The only complicating factor was that we had to incorporate the new RHS Branding, which you can see in the logo and on the RHS page.

I decided not to use the RHS picture that you can see on the RHS page in the header as I wanted a clean, uncluttered look for the site, so I just incorporated the new flower logo into the header instead.  I also cut down on the amount of text and spaced it out more (this is what is meant by whitespace – it doesn’t have to be white, it just has to be free of text or images).

Does anyone like the site?

Feedback for the site has been great, from both NiB and the competitors, with the main comment being that it’s ‘so easy to navigate’.

Beefing up WordPress security

And as for security, that was mainly solved by simply revamping the site.  It’s actually quite an old site so the WordPress theme that was there originally was no longer supported.  That plus a lack of basic security features such as captcha, Wordfence and brute protect, meant that the site was an easy target for hackers.

So why did it take months to build?  Largely because the NiB team responsible for the content are an extremely busy bunch.  As soon as 1st April arrives they go into weeks and weeks of Spring judging, Summer judging, then discussing all the results and organising the presentations. So when you add that to the fact that the site has 42 pages in total (most of them in the Judges’ section), you can see why it was such a long job.