It’s a big step forward in our long-term strategy to transform into a more digitally-focused organization that incorporates technology into every aspect of our work—research insights, convenings, communication, and collaboration. But the new website is fresh out of the box, and we want to make sure it works how it should before we trumpet our success. So, for now we aren’t making a big show of it.
While a new website is a necessary condition of creating a new digital Atlantic Council, we know that it alone will not be sufficient for meeting our ambitious objectives. We want to create the most compelling and informative content to support our goal of tackling the world’s defining challenges and shaping its future. That’s the hard work that begins now. Redesigning the site was a necessary step. The old one hadn’t been substantially reworked for six years, and it was well-past due.
We think the new site will give users a richer experience as they dig deeper into our content. Our viewers, readers, supporters, event attendees, and partners should all find the site faster, better, and more effective. The key benefits of the new website:
- It will improve the face we show to the world. The new site is much more contemporary. We have changed everything from the way we write headlines—they are now “sentence case,” with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized—to using more contemporary colors and fonts.
- It will be easier for people to find our content. We want everyone to find the content they want, and especially on their mobile devices. Desktop users are still a majority of our site’s users, but just barely, and we expect that to switch in the next year.
- Paving the way for innovation. The new site is straightforward, but much more adaptable. Improvement and change are permanent factors of our work, and the new site reflects this; it will enable more people in our organization to use it the ways they need on a daily basis.
- Improving collaboration. It will be much easier to create new areas of collaborative work, “content series” that draw from multiple teams. And the new site will make it simpler to connect with partners by syndicating content and connecting workstreams.
- Moving faster. Relevance at speed is a key principle of our work. The new website will make it easier for the Council to push out its analysis and make it faster to read and download.
- More choices about how we visualize our ideas. Images, graphics, and video are becoming as important as words; a modern presentation matters. These visual elements will become fixtures of nearly every piece of content the Council produces.
We are at the beginning of a new wave of possibility for the Council. Using our top-notch expertise to bring our ideas to life in new ways with modern media platforms we will hope to shape the critical debates of our time.
The contractor for the site is ParsonsTKO. They’ve helped a diverse set of organizations develop engagement that creates change, including: the MacArthur Foundation, Stanford’s Social Innovation Review, Internews, CrossFit, inc., and The Folger Shakespeare Library, and they’ve been a delight to work with.
The website is built on WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, using version 5.2. We like Gutenberg Blocks, WordPress’s key technology—they’re easy to use and they make reshaping pages quick and intuitive.
The next stage of our work will focus on building enhanced content for the site and rethinking how we work digitally with our communities in Washington, the United States, and globally. This is a multiyear effort that will effectively match the progress of technology as new approaches—automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data—reshape how we work.
We are going through a revolution in policy communication. Think tanks have tended in the past to assume they could reach their desired audiences via panel events, op-eds in the main national newspapers, and printed reports. Digital technology gives us the ability to do more than that. Rising disquiet about how democracy operates means we must do more than that.
Organizations like ours need to be on the front line of communicating the defining challenges that the United States faces, and we need to do so in ways that connect with people the way they want, and on the platforms they choose.
Andrew R. Marshall is vice president of communications at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter @Consultifi.