Case Studies / Vera Water and Power
Vera Water and Power's new site provides quick updates and solid answers
Founded in 1908, Vera Water and Power supplies water and electricity to 10,000 customers in the Spokane Valley area. After working with Vera on small projects for several years, it was ready to work with us on a completely new vision for verawaterandpower.com.
A new Content Management System
Vera had been maintaining a static HTML site for several years. This meant that for every update, staff members had to open HTML files and edit code. While static sites provide excellent performance and flexibility, they are not convenient when content has to be updated often. And since Vera provides water and power to thousands of customers, frequent updates are critical.
By implementing a new content management system, Vera staff are able to provide timely updates (especially for outage events) to the site.
Planning the site
Before writing code or drafting page layouts, we met with Vera to plan out every aspect of the site's content, called the Discovery Phase. Discovery is crucial as a first step because it defines the crucial features, clarifies key content, reevaluates important features, or removes unnecessary distractions for the final web project.
After a series of meetings, Design Spike developed the information architecture, which determined the structure and content of the new site.
The new site features an update system that enables Vera administrators to add news items in a blog-like system. These updates can include images or other media, and admins can choose which items should appear in the featured area of the homepage.
Vera site administrators can quickly add news items
"Knowledge base" feature
On most days, visitors to verawaterandpower.com are looking for answers to questions like "How can I pay my bill?" or "How do I transfer my service?". This use-case is perfectly solved by the site's new knowledge base. The knowledge base is a special section of the site with a growing collection of articles on specific subjects. It's organized with categories, a "Top Questions" list, and a "Related Questions" feature that appears at the bottom of each article.
To help visitors find the knowledge base, each page on the site can also link to "Related Knowledge Base Articles," which can be managed by an admin.
The knowledge base provides a central place for customers to find answers
Usability, mobile access, and navigation
Vera's website needed an organized navigation system that would guide visitors to relevant information. On the desktop version of the site, the navigation appears as a traditional and highly polished dropdown system that introduces visitors to site content. On other devices (such as a cell phone or a tablet), a "hamburger menu" quickly displays the full site map.
Sidebar menus are used so that the site's subcategories may be accessed, and a robust footer menu lists tertiary links and contact information. Breadcrumbs, buttons, and links all help to provide redundant forms of navigation and keep the user from getting lost. The site administrator can control all navigation features using a drag-and-drop system.
Visitors have access to multiple forms of familiar navigation (including dropdowns, breadcrumbs, search, and sidebars) to find information