Construction Industry Institute
There’s nothing quite like the Construction Industry Institute (CII).
Based out of UT-Austin, the CII is a consortium of players in the world of construction—especially large-scale, heavy-duty, industrial construction.
Engineers, contractors, and suppliers—both public and private—have come together with academia to create a body of knowledge. More than 130 members from around the world contribute to CII’s ever-expanding library of thinking.
SImply put, CII is defining how to most effectively, efficiently, and safely build the future.
Taming a Content Beast
CII came to us with a simple, but daunting, challenge:
Put CII’s bottomless archive of data—research studies, reports, presentations, tools, infographics, etc.—on the Internet in a user-friendly way.
Specifically, they partnered with us to strategize, design, and develop—with the help of our partners at AdaptDev—the CII Knowledge Base—an online portal that allows construction professionals to easily find (and discover) the latest industry findings and best practices.
Thousands and thousands of pages awaited.
Our first step, as ever, was to deeply understand the nuances of CII’s users. Knowing how construction professionals—of all stripes, from all sectors, from around the globe—need to hunt down helpful resources allowed us to sort CII’s content into “buckets” that make sense.
We crafted a simple—but never simplistic—site architecture that collects CII’s vast content library around common “knowledge areas” that users can peruse to find articles of particular interest to them.
Additionally, we deployed a powerful search tool and planted it in the middle of the homepage—allowing users to use specific keywords to quickly answer their questions.
An elegant user experience is part architecture and part aesthetics. And most users would expect an “online library of academic analysis of construction industry trends” to be about as beautiful as an old sock.
But here at TradeMark, we firmly believe that every organization deserves a visually gorgeous website.
We started by designing the CII Knowledge Base logo. Check it out:
Lots of thinking goes into designing a logo like this. As our designer, Polly, explains:
The new logo represents transformation. The Knowledge Base is a large step forward for CII as an organization, and the resources available in the Knowledge Base have the potential to transform how CII’s members do business. The fresh green reflects transformation and potential for growth, while the blue connects to CII’s original branding.
The overlapping shape symbolizes the collaboration involved in CII’s research and its three unique member types: owners, contractors, and academics. The thickness of the shapes and the font represent the power and enduring value of the Knowledge Base.
For the website itself, we decided to keep bells and whistles to a minimum. This site is, first and foremost, utilitarian. Users come to the CII Knowledge Base to get work done. No need to distract them with photography or a buffet of precious icons.
Instead, we focused on making sure the content was easy to consume (even though it’s build on a powerful search and filtering tool).
Lots of white space. Simple boxes and buttons. Links clearly underlined. Search box prominently displayed.
The CII Knowledge Base is a fine example of the power of “invisible design”—i.e., content shines through a restrained aesthetic. Some websites cry out for visual embellishments; others just need to roll their sleeves up and get to work.
The Final Verdict
What a pleasure this project was—especially for our left brain.
The real heavy lifting—to borrow a construction industry pun—was in immersing ourselves in the world of the CII and construction professionals. Once we understood their needs and concerns, we were able to architect a website that operates, that delivers.