A Critical Drupal Transformation For Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (popularly known as MSF) provides pro bono healthcare in more than 70 countries worldwide. Consequently, they experience a high volume of website traffic of almost 2 million sessions per year. However, their old Drupal 8 website wasn’t able to engage users and raise the funds that enables them to save lives. We began with a clear plan to redesign the website in incremental phases. Just as the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, we were thirteen Sprints into the project. And that's when Doctors Without Borders’ role would become instrumental.
Case descriptionDoctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (popularly known as MSF) cares for people affected by conflict, disease outbreaks, natural and human-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries worldwide.
With almost 2 million sessions per year, Doctors Without Borders US’s old Drupal 8 website wasn’t able to engage users. The user experience (frontend and editorial) wasn’t optimized either.
But sometimes the unexpected we encounter during a redesign isn’t technology or user experience. Sometimes stakeholders and even world events can throw curve balls that get in the way of great work. That was the case for Doctors Without Borders in 2022. Just as the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, we were thirteen Sprints into the project.
As Axelerant and our agency partner, Blue State delivered an improved experience, we helped Doctors Without Borders break a record. Mobile-optimized UX and information architecture, modular content blocks, and improved cross-navigation boosted visits and donations exponentially. The month the website was launched, over 11 million dollars were donated through the platform to help Ukraine.
Case goals and resultsThe Goal:
To enable Doctors Without Borders, we need to achieve the following objectives:
- Intuitive website navigation that leads readers to the right information
- Update the website's frontend design and craft it for access on all devices and interfaces.
- Custom templates and content blocks for different kinds of webpages for easy flow of information.
Here’s how we achieved our project goals:
- Going Agile
As opposed to a traditional waterfall methodology we worked over a year through a series of sprints with the Doctors Without Borders team. This approach minimized the burden of Doctors Without Borders’ stakeholders. We tailored the plan around availability and unexpected conflicts to enable them to participate in the process.
- Aiming at Brand Stickiness for Mobile Users First
At a scale such as 2 million sessions per year, even incremental design and platform improvements to optimize design funnels could make a big difference. So, that is what we did. Instead of touching every template, form, and piece of content, we prioritized specific modules, navigation changes, and high-yield experiences.
We delivered a mix of website strategy, UX and UI design, development, analytics, and Drupal maintenance. This is how we did it:
- New, interactive content blocks which portray what the organization does
- Redesigned templates which the editor can work flexibly with
- Restructured site navigation (header and footer)
- Responsive design for all mobile devices and tablets
- Regular design reviews on the new look and user experience of the website
- Complete SEO review and consequent SEO fixes
- We had redesigned the website in incremental Sprints—and then, the unexpected. Thirteen Sprints in, the Russia-Ukraine conflict began. And that’s when Doctors Without Borders’ role would become instrumental. We were prepared to help Doctors Without Borders provide their life-saving care when it was most needed. So, we launched. And this was the result:
The customer believed that the new site experience is data-driven and dramatically improved for mobile and first-time traffic. The new website presents impactful information that is easy to consume. This increased the number of users that proceeded to the donation form by a whopping 54%. The association was able to raise more than $40 million for Ukraine’s medical aid in the year 2022 alone.
The technical reliability of the code delivered by Axelerant underpins the success of the updated UX. Typically the weeks following a major update can be spent rooting out performance issues that only reveal themselves under stress of the public release. Not only did the site perform well on day one of the major release in March, it did so under a massive influx of traffic following the Ukraine invasion.
In addition to the high volume of traffic, fundraising in the context of a geopolitical crisis can draw the attention of bad actors. Attempted hacks and DDOS attacks quickly found their way to MSF’s new site.
The Success Metrics:
- 54% Increase in Traffic to Donation Form:
The improvements in the website helped convert the massive inflow of visitors into donors. It increased internal traffic to the donation form by 54%. Not only did the site perform well on day one of the major releases in March, it did so under a massive influx of traffic during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- Rising to Help Ukraine with $40M+:
Launching the new website helped Doctors Without Borders set fundraising records during their response to Ukraine. They were able to raise more than $40 million online in the year 2022 alone to support the medical response in Ukraine. This endeavor ensured Doctors Without Borders was able to rise to the support of Ukraine.
- Critical Content with Real Impact:
The modular features of the newly-revamped CMS allowed the customer to quickly create new organic content to describe their impact in Ukraine and the needs of their patients. These flexible components helped Doctors Without Borders increase their content output helping to meet the content needs of audiences at a critical moment.
ChallengesThe Doctors Without Borders website plays a vital role in MSF's fundraising in the United States. But as we dug into the data, we found that more than 86% of these visitors had never been to the MSF website before.
There were four challenges that Doctors Without Borders needed to resolve:
1. Unclear Navigation and Visual Structure
The navigation of the website wasn’t intuitive. It repeated the same structure and content blocks on a majority of pages. There were too many details on the site navigation which failed to provide what the end user required.
2.Unresponsive and Interactive Design Elements
The website's frontend design was dated, not crafted for access on all devices and interfaces. Also, every content type/template on the website had a generic design for which failed to create an impact. Because of the unintuitive design, there was low engagement even when the visitor traffic was exceptional.
3. Limited Editorial Options
The same templates and content blocks for every page on the site made it impossible to publish information in an easy way. There needed to be more flexibility to create a variety of content to engage users.
4. Launch at a High-Transaction Time
This challenge came on at a later stage in the project. The new improved website needed to be launched right on the day the Russian incursion into Ukraine began.
Community contributionsAxelerant has plans to present this impactful story at DrupalCamp Pune this year and other global Drupal community events. Our aim is to inspire others with the change-making power of Drupal. Well-articulated and promoted Drupal stories of impact are what will help close the marketing gap: telling this story is a powerful contribution to the promote Drupal initiative.
The site is hosted on Pantheon.
Why should this case win the splash awards?Axelerant got the opportunity to work with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières’ U.S.A. chapter) in collaboration with Blue State, one of our most trusted partners. Our collaboration helped Doctors Without Borders raise, what may be called, a record-breaking 40+ million USD donation for the medical aid of the victims of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Doctors Without Borders, an international, independent medical humanitarian organization was established in 1971 in Paris by a group of 300 journalists and doctors. Today, they are a global movement of more than 63,000 people from more than 160 countries. Their US office staff of 231 people supports the association’s services through staff recruitment, fundraising, communications, awareness campaigns, and advocacy. The organization includes health professionals, logistic and administrative professionals who are bound by a common charter. They’ve been instrumental in saving lives the world over during wars and conflicts, big and small.
With almost 2 million sessions per year, Doctors Without Borders old Drupal 8 website wasn’t able to engage users. The user experience (frontend and editorial) wasn’t optimized either. As a nonprofit healthcare organization, Doctors Without Borders relies on donations to be able to deliver the best healthcare in the remotest and the most troubled parts of the world. And their Drupal 8 website was not able to lead most visitors and donors to the pages where they were looking to donate. Our job was to redesign the website in phases, and be able to attract better financing for its pro bono healthcare services around the world.
We began with a clear plan to redesign the website in incremental Sprints—and then, the unexpected. Thirteen Sprints in, the Russia-Ukraine conflict began. And that’s when Doctors Without Borders’ role would become instrumental in providing immediate medical aid to the victims of the war. We were prepared to help Doctor Without Borders provide their life-saving care when it was most needed
As Axelerant and Blue State worked together to deliver an improved user experience, we helped Doctors Without Borders break a record. Mobile-optimized UX and information architecture, modular content blocks, and improved cross-navigation boosted visits and donations exponentially. The improved website received over 11 million USD within the first month of its launch and over 40 million USD in the year 2022 through this platform to help Ukraine. We’ve recently replatformed the website to Drupal 9, making it even more accessible and safe from phishing and fraudulent attacks.
The life-saving work of Doctors Without Borders stands in stark contrast to the awful realities of war. We’re proud to have made a difference with Drupal to help all those affected in Ukraine. We still continue to work with Doctors Without Borders in maximizing their impact digitally.