Good morning, Baltimore
At 7:30 on Saturday morning, I walked into a studio filled with the smell of coffee and bagels. It’s a good thing, too, because waking up at 7 is not a part of my usual Saturday morning routine. As others trickled in, I poured myself a coffee and was pointed towards a conference room where my team was gathering. My team, a collection of 6 designers and developers, was one of 9 such groups that made up Baltimore’s 2019 Make a Mark Make-a-Thon event.
Make a Mark 2019
“For 12 hours, let’s make — for good.” The tagline quickly sums up the goal for the annual Make-a-Thon. Some of our community’s biggest problems are solved entirely by volunteers. The problem is, most non-profits don’t have the resources to design and develop materials to prop up their efforts. Make a Mark is a 12-hour design and development marathon benefitting local humanitarian causes. For one day, they gather the best designers and developers to work on projects for the most impactful organizations in our community.
Who and why?
It was for this common purpose that we assembled early on a Saturday morning: To do what we could to give these nonprofits some extra tools for success—in just 12 hours. My group was assigned to the Women’s Law Center of Maryland (WLC), an organization that serves as a leading voice for justice and fairness for women. They provide direct legal representation, information and referrals, and legislative advocacy in pursuit of this mission. (Here’s a list of the other nonprofits that participated in the event.)
“This is right up my alley,” I thought when I received my assignment about two weeks ahead of the event. The Make a Mark team organized discovery meetings for all of the groups to meet with a representative from each nonprofit to learn about how we could best help: in our case, WLC needed a new website, one that made crucial information easier to access and that was mobile-friendly. We asked about the goals of their organization, and their goals for their new website. What are your main audiences? What are their goals? Their pain points? What information is most important to you and to them? What does a successful redesign look like to you? And so on.
So when we arrived on Saturday, we were ready to rock and roll. Based on the knowledge we gathered at our discovery meeting, we spent the first part of the day restructructuring their site map to unbury the most important pieces of information. Their organization has 3 main audiences: First and foremost are people seeking help; secondary audiences include lawyers looking for information or wanting to offer legal services, and donors. That led to three main calls-to-action we could use to frame the site: get help, learn about us, and donate.
Once we had a structure in place, we needed a look and feel. While they had an existing logo, type system, and color palette to work with, the overall feel of their existing website was a bit clinical and impersonal—something we wanted to change. WLC is an organization that has a huge positive impact on people’s lives, we wanted to communicate that through their site. In addition to reorganizing the site’s structure, we gave the pages new layouts, new photography, and a clean-up of existing copy.
We doodled, whiteboarded, Slacked, Unsplashed, coded, and WordPressed our way through the day—intermittent swearing, gasping and troubleshooting were plentiful, as well. Did someone edit that hover state?! Why is this orange? How much time is left??
In theory, restructuring, designing, and building a website in under 12 hours was a daunting task. In implementation, it was a crazy, stressful, and wonderful whirlwind of brainpower, design skills, development, and kickass teamwork. And the end result was something we were all proud to hand over to our WLC representative. Our rep, on the other hand, was stunned and overwhelmingly grateful to have this brand new website in front of her — though not as grateful as we are for the amazing work that they do every day to make our community a better place.
You can check out their new website and learn more about the Women’s Law Center of Maryland at wlcmd.org.