UBC Innovation: overcoming the complicated with collaboration

How OpenRoad helped UBC bring innovation to life with a flexible approach to client work.

UBC Innovation initiative website shown on computer, mobile and tablet

The OpenRoad team recently created a new stand-alone site for the University of British Columbia’s Innovation initiative. The UBC Innovation network helps transform research, and entrepreneurial drive into new products, policies and practices that improve lives around the world. A key purpose of the site is to articulate the scope of support services available across disciplines, under the "Innovation" umbrella. Secondly, the initiative aims to celebrate and highlight UBC's success in creating and supporting such partnerships.

Working with large complex organizations can be challenging if you’re not prepared to be flexible. This means accommodating varying levels of involvement from the client, helping them build consensus internally before starting the work, creating space for collaboration when they want it, and helping them build capacity from a technical standpoint. Over a period of six months we completed three large projects for UBC, and we’ve employed different tactics for each one. What has remained consistent however, is the efficacy found in taking a flexible approach.

Teamwork makes the dream work—embrace it.

UBC has a strong understanding of all things digital. In fact, the University has their own internal team dedicated to designing and developing websites. As a leading academic institution, UBC needs partners with deep and wide-ranging technical and creative skills. Given the strength of their internal teams, an effective partner is one that can help increase capacity and offer a fresh perspective, while augmenting their in-house efforts.

Universities—like any large, complex organization—need partners that know how to play as a team. This means we employ different tactics to accommodate the needs of each unique project. The Innovation UBC brand is managed by an internal team that was eager to be involved in the process. So we adapted our approach to meet their desired level of collaboration.

UBC Innovation website design

What does innovation mean, anyways?

We knew that the UBC team wanted the site itself to be “innovative.” However, that single adjective was a vague and subjective starting point. To truly understand their vision, we invited the UBC team to our office for a team-building design challenge we call a “Design Jam.” We unpacked what “innovation” means in their context and worked through a series of exercises, communicating ideas through rough sketches. This helped us better understand our client’s expectations, and kept us from exploring ideas that didn’t align with their vision.

UBC Innovation homepage

Next, we brought these ideas to life with animated prototypes that quickly visualized how the site would behave and react. This gave our client a taste of what it would be like to use the site. While the Design Jam and the animated prototyping meant a larger up-front time investment, the process expedited the decision making later on. That meant fewer revisions and changes thanks to the clarity gained from the design challenge.

UBC Innovation initaitive

A lasting relationship leads to efficiency

We can’t overstate the value of an ongoing relationship. Having recently completed UBC’s Strategic Plan website, our Development and Design teams were already familiar with the UBC code base and their Common Look and Feel guidelines. And our Project Managers had a good understanding of their internal processes. Without sacrificing efficiency, we formulated an approach that anticipated the desired level of collaboration and the necessary consensus building.

Using insights from the design challenge, we demonstrated "innovation" by pushing what was possible in the experience of the site through a refreshed colour palette and dramatic motion transitions. The finished product is a site that communicates UBC’s vision for their Innovation initiative.

Looking for a partner that can bring your organization’s digital vision to life? Get in touch with us today.