Case study: Converge.org

Designing and developing a system for 12 non-profit websites

Converge.org homepage
Converge.org homepage

I worked at Converge for 4 years, as an intern for the first 9 months and then part-time as the sole web designer and developer. Converge is a 165-year-old non-profit that starts and strengthens churches around the world. With 1300+ churches affliated, Converge is a big name in the church planting world.

My most expansive project during that time was leading the redesign of the organization’s 12 sites. Not only was this redesign done in conjunction with a new brand launch, but we were working with a 10-year-old CMS and a collaboration with dozens and dozens of stakeholders. For much of 2015 and 2016, I was entrenched in designing, developing, and deploying this behemoth of a project.

Content & Navigation

Pretty design is no good when the content is lacking. Before I could get designing, I had to work with the marketing team to create a new content structure. Our previous site had 3 distinct menus and at least fifty pages of content that needed to be totally revamped. Working with the team, I created a new content structure with a hierarchy that required only one navigation menu.

First navigation concept
First navigation concept

Final navigation design
Final navigation design

Design & Prototyping

With a new content structure and an approved navigation, I moved on to a combination of creating mockups in Photoshop ( and building prototypes in the browser. Mockups were ideal for exploring possible design directions while a living prototype made for an interactive experience once we choose a certain direction.

The end look-and-feel was straightforward enough to create, the hard part was creating a system that could be used by 12 autonomous organizations that were unified under the Converge brand. The system had to be flexible enough to accommodate for each organization’s content, but strict enough to give the appearance of a unified brand.

The design system was used on a total of 12 websites
The design system was used on a total of 12 websites

The most disappointing aspect of this redesign was that it would not be responsive. Because of the site’s donation system, we were still tied to an outdated CMS that didn’t play well with responsive design. Launching a non-responsive website in 2015 felt repulsive, but it was the only viable option we had.

That said, there was plenty reward in designing solutions to user pain points, even as simple as creating an easy login experience. I worked directly with about 25 people from across the organization to identify these poor experiences in their section of the site. Seeing their faces light up when I proposed a usability fix made it all worth it.

An easy login experience left many rejoicing
An easy login experience left many rejoicing

Development & Deployment

Back-end development for the new design started with taking the prototypes I made, adjusting them to our final specs, and then working them into our Drupal templates. From there, it was a lot of figuring out workarounds and doing some heavy adjustment in various views and modules. I’ll be happy if I never hear again the phrase “Drupal 6” the rest of my life.

The redesign was launched in two main phases. The first was launching the new Converge.org with the old logo and brand components while our marketing team was still finalizing the new brand. Nearly a year later, at the organization’s biennial conference with hundreds of its leaders, we unveiled the shiny new brand and I spent the day re-launching our websites.

The hardest part of deploying all 12 sites at once was that I hard to keep track of so many files, databases, and versions. Not only did we want to make sure each site was running smoothly, but we had backups in place in the event of a hiccup.

Recap

Of all the projects I worked on at Converge, the redesign was the one that stretched and grew me the most. I learned how to communicate with a huge number of stakeholders, make compromises with the resources we had, and get to the root of problems to create lasting solutions.

Many thanks to the marketing team and many, many other at Converge who I got to work with and learn from on this project.

The Church Planting content section
The Church Planting content section