Cleaning up the data structure and workflow for a new CleanerSolutions.org site
The Cleaner Solutions laboratory conducts dozens of new, highly detailed cleaning product reviews each month. But an outdated data input workflow and publishing process resulted in the CleanerSolutions.org website being updated irregularly and some research simply falling through the cracks and never being published.
“We had gaps in the research data we were trying to present to the public, and getting that situation corrected was the main goal of this project,” said Jason Marshall, the laboratory director for the site’s parent organization, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
CleanerSolutions.org turned to its development partner Mugo Web, and the result is a dramatically improved site and content management workflow that launched earlier this year. For complete details on the project, you can see our case study here.
The new system, based on the Ibexa DXP, enforces data quality throughout a user role-based workflow. And the site now has a clean, responsive design.
The Mugo partnership
The six-month-long project began with evaluating the design, said Paulo Valle, Mugo’s lead developer on the project. The design phase ran concurrently with data restructuring and cleanup within Mugo’s flexible, iterative project management approach. As with all Mugo projects, communication was constant and clear between developer and client.
“They would field suggestions, and then work through it – they didn’t shut things down, but instead looked for creative solutions,” Marshall said. “They are clearly the experts in what they do … but they are also very low-key and easy to work with.”
Data & workflow
As with all database-centric projects, the core issue for the CleanerSolutions.org relaunch was understanding, simplifying and migrating the existing data structure into its new Ibexa DXP environment.
Research data was previously stored in an Access database. To populate the public site, admins had to run multiple Access queries and upload them in CSV format to the production environment.
Valle said the previous Access DB had about 40 tables in it, some of which were functionally dead. The Access-based data entry process also allowed users to step outside the prescribed data structure and input variant strings for some values. Valle said hundreds of items had to be cleaned up, in addition to being reorganized.
Overall, the data structure was simplified down to about six content types.
The former, highly restrictive Access workflow – only one user to log into the system at a time – was replaced with web-based forms based on the Ibexa user permissions system.
A sparkling new design
The guiding design principal for the new CleanerSolutions.org was to show visitors how much data is available, but to simultaneously not overwhelm them with too many search options.
“The data all works together to illustrate a comparison or feature set, so showing it out of context is not very useful to the user,” Mugo Web’s Valle said. “So the design has to provide that context and make it easy to find answers.”
The CleanerSolutions.org site promotes a selection of tailored search query forms for products, safety ratings and other key cleaning products and part attributes. The interface also includes similarly structured category browse interfaces, with some limited open searches for company and product names.
Cosmetically, the CleanerSolutions.org site was brought into visual brand alignment with the main TURI site, which Mugo helped redesign in 2018. The new site is responsive and optimized for all devices.
“Externally, the front end has been given a much-needed facelift that's consistent with the design of TURI’s website,” said Alicia McCarthy, a lab specialist for TURI.