Director of Strategy
Director of User Experience
Kinross Gold is a senior gold mining company, headquartered in Toronto and with thousands of employees spanning the globe.
Focused on disciplined growth and responsible mining practices, Kinross also cares about its people, who are often based in very remote locations for significant periods of time.
Kinross World is a web site primarily for employees and their families (although accessibe to the public too) to keep up to date on what's happening internally, at sites around the world, and find out about the latest corporate news and initiatives. Kinross World is also the online hub of the Living Our Values Award, an annual ceremony which recognizes individual excellence based on the voting of employees internationally.
What you see above is the old Kinross World site, and as with most things like this, it's fine.
We were positive we could make it a lot better.
During our research, a few things became clear.
The navigation was confusing. Why was Contact Us labelled as Our Kinross? Photos and videos (most of them user-submitted) did not integrate well within the dated and limited layout. And speaking of which, finding out how to submit stories and media was a chore in itself.
But one of the most concerning things was the repetition of information. A Living Our Values Award winner, for instance, would have a bio linked to from the LOVA landing page. And a different bio linked to from the news item about their win. And a different bio linked to from their archived nomination page.
And so on.
With an experienced team, fixing these sorts of issues isn't that complex. The team sees them, the client sees them, and really they're just symptoms of what a lot of corporate web sites go through, which is a process of refreshing and restructuring on a patchwork, as-and-when basis.
We were able to get the client to take a step back - in fact, to their credit, we asked them to take a much bigger step back than they were anticipating, and they trusted us and went with it.
The biggest change was to define what Kinross World actually is. Ultimately, it's a news aggregator, and each component - each piece of content - is an item. The bio of a LOVA winner is a item, a single item, and should be the single point of reference for that information throughout the site. That went for every piece of written content, and photos and videos too. Essentially, the entire site became a filterable list of news items, which of course necessitated a much more explicit, well-designed, usable filtering and search system as well.
All well and good.
While working through all these issues, the team got very interested in the idea of place, and what it means online, where everything seems to exist in this locationless digital aether.
Working with Kinross, we saw how sincerely they care about their employees, and how demanding their employees' work can be.
The Kupol mine, for example, is located above the Arctic Circle in Russia, almost 200 kilometres from the nearest town, and is so cold that workers commute from their camp (which they often have to fly into and spend up to six weeks living in) to the mine via a specially contructed underground tunnel. I asked if I could be sent there for research but the client said no.
And so we suggested adding site (as in, mining site) landing pages to Kinross World, which hadn't previously existed. The client was on-board immediately.
It's a small thing, but for the employees who have such strong, close ties to their workplaces, it seemed logical to offer a similar focal point here - a hub of activity for a particular mine, with all the relevant news items, submitted photos, initiatives and LOVA winners accounted for.
To underscore the sense of place, we added the local time, weather and location information, and made sure the big employee news was given prominence at the top of the page.
This prioritizing of place also extended to the information archicture.
Rather than relegating the mining sites to the Contact Us page, we gave them their rightful place in the primary navigation, making it easy for employees from the United States, Brazil, Ghana, Russia, Mauritania and Chile to find out what's going on with their colleagues and their company on the other side of the world.
To further encourage this pseudo-geographical exploration, we added dynamic, mining site-specific CTAs to the search results page, which would surface depending on the search terms.
For the the final piece of the Kinross World project, we had to get back to basics.
When you're living what seems like a million miles away from anywhere, working in the field with only a phone, limited access to a desktop, and even more limited access to the internet, a piece of paper pinned to a noticeboard can become a very big deal. The client was adamant that Kinross World live as effectively on a noticeboard as on-screen. To that end, we created a series of paper-only layouts that would translate the Kinross World content into appealing, eye-catching designs optimized for print.
Ideally, the end user should always be considered the client, and that was absolutely the case here. Sitting across the table from the team at Kinross, their desire to reach every employee, no matter what language they speak or how inhospitable their environment, was palpable. Even though it was seemingly the most basic and straightforward part of the project, the fact that these print requirements were non-negotiable speaks to why Kinross World was such a gratifying project to work on.