Kaiser Family Foundation: Bringing 20 years of data into WordPress

kaiser_family_foundation_66933The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation recently relaunched their data-heavy site on WordPress.com VIP, bringing multiple websites and content management systems under one roof: KFF.org. The new site combines disparate databases into one state and global data table, and features fact sheets, reports, polls, and slides, all of which can be searched and filtered inside WordPress with the new faceted VIP Search.

We spoke with David Rousseau, Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President and  Executive Director, Health Policy Media and Technology, and Robin Sidel, Associate Director, New Media and Marketing to learn more about the foundation’s innovative redesign, which was built by VIP Featured Partner Alley Interactive.

What propelled your team to do the redesign? 

David: We hadn’t redesigned our site since 2003, and the site had 10 different content management systems. We wanted to integrate all the sites into one home, and build it on a platform that would let us grow and integrate new technologies without needing to reinvent the wheel every time we did that.

We also wanted to create a new look for our entire site, and really have a consistent brand, look, and feel across every piece of content we produce –  something we didn’t have before across our 5 different websites and other gateways. We also have a much higher emphasis on HTML presentation of our content instead of PDF presentation. Before, we had an HTML summary with a link to a PDF, which wasn’t very accessible in other platforms and mobile devices.

Why did your team choose WordPress?

David: We went into it with the hope that we would build the site in an open source platform, which we believe will have the best ability to adapt and take advantage of new technology.

We also have a great backstory: Our CEO Drew Altman was on a flight with Matt Mullenweg, and Matt spent the DC to SFO flight on Virgin America going through the website and telling Drew how it could be built with WordPress. Matt was the #1 salesperson!

Robin: We also wanted more of our staff to edit and contribute to content, and everyone we spoke to said that WordPress was the better choice for ease of use, intuitiveness, and simpler workflow.

David: The foundation has a commitment to giving away information for free and to making sure whoever wants access gets access. We really seeing moving to the open source environment as an extension of that mission. We hope to contribute to core WordPress, and have already had some researchers interested in using pieces of the CMS we’ve built.

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How is your data organized in the new site?

Robin: The site is really built and centered around our 10 topics, which are featured heavily on the homepage. On the site itself, we have more than 30 content types [powered by Alley Interactive's Fieldmanager]. There’s a lot of interactive content like quizzes, and then we have data intensive content like our state and global indicators.

One of the benefits of combining all of the content into one CMS is that we have so much content to uncover, but it also presents a challenge because we want people to be able to find what they’re looking for. We have a powerful search that has a tabbed approach so that when you search, you can refine by topics, tags and content types, and break content into 3 sections of the search for: data, slides, and research publications.

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How has the workflow changed since you migrated to WordPress?

David: When we started the redesign process, we did a 360 review of what our staff was looking for and what we heard from them, loud and clear, was that they wanted more involvement with the CMS and more ability to do things online.

In the past, the staff didn’t touch the CMS. They wrote things in Word, sent it to the production team, and they put it online. With WordPress, that workflow is changing slowly and dramatically. We’ve trained many of our content creators in the CMS. And, the closer the content creators are to it, the more creatively they are able to think about it. They are beginning to really evaluate how people are consuming information, and think about how to communicate the research in our new platform.

Robin: By having more of our staff create their own content, it frees up some of our web production team to focus on creating graphics and nice visuals for the site. If you look at our homepage, we have graphics created just for our homepage.

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What was the most difficult part of launching the new site? 

David: Data migration. We migrated almost 20 years of content from 10 different CMSes. To get everything landing in the same place, it took a lot of brute force, and lots of long nights and weekends.

What are you most proud of on the new site?

David: The search is definitely one of the standout features of the new site. It’s a unique and detailed faceted search that exposes people to all our content, and the data center is directly integrated into both the CMS and search. Other data-heavy organizations like ours, still operate multiple websites with data and CMSes that are not integrated. I think we’re the first in our space to do that — with as much diverse content as we have all in one home.

Robin: The design. In the beginning, we were really struggling with the look, because we didn’t want to be like every other think-tank or nonprofit. We wanted something that was really visually friendly, that was cutting edge. We’re all really pleased with the design done by Free Range Studios, and Alley Interactive did a wonderful job bringing it to life.


Kaiser Family Foundation and Alley Interactive recently presented at the WordPress in Government Workshop. See their slides below:

Kaiser Family Foundation: Redesigning KFF.org

Alley Interactive: Three Technology Challenges We Faced in the Migration of KFF.org to WordPress

Learn more about KFF.org’s redesign.

Want more information about WordPress for large-scale or enterprise sites? Contact WordPress.com VIP Services.

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