31.5.2021

How long does it typically take to run a renewal project of a website for a listed company operating on six continents with sales in more than 100 countries? I would estimate 6-12 months, depending on the situation. Kemira made the impossible possible by revamping its Kemira.com website in just 12 weeks. The kick-off event of the implementation project was held in early January and the new website was published right on schedule on 31.3.2021.

Such a fast implementation schedule requires certain preconditions, the most important of which for Kemira was high-quality preparatory work before the start of the website implementation. The scope of the project itself was also strictly determined. The necessity of the renewal worked as a strong motivator for the project. The previous website was technically unstable which had become unbearable. Kemira needed a reliable site for production use as soon as possible.

Unbearable starting point

Kemira.com is Kemira Oyj company´s main site with content in seven different languages. Of these, English and Finnish are the main languages, whereas the other language versions are slightly narrower than these. The website is a marketing communications entity that covers the content of different areas of business as well as the needs of investor communications and recruitment.

The previous Kemira.com site was published in 2018, so judging purely from time perspective, there should have still been much of the life cycle of the site left. But the situation was different this time. The site was technically unreliable and repeatedly experienced significant slowness. In addition to performance challenges, the site was completely down numerous times.

Several attempts were made to address these performance challenges, but the root causes of the instability weren’t fully found at any time. The problems were caused by previous choices, specifically the hosting environment and the way the website was built, which was unnecessarily complex considering the intended use of the site. The editorial content of the website was managed in WordPress, but the interface was implemented as a fully customized React application. “Overall, the development and maintenance of the website had become too laborious and time-consuming, as well as far too expensive,” says Marita Navrátilová, the director in charge of Corporate Identity at Kemira.

“The developing and maintenance of the website had become far too laborious and expensive”

MARITA NAVRÁTILOVÁ, CORPORATE IDENTITY DIRECTOR AT KEMIRA

High-quality preparatory work laid the path for successful implementation

The priority aims of the website renewal were related to tackling the challenges of instability, streamlining everyday work, and the cost-effectiveness of development. The aim was to simplify and stabilize the technical entity. A suitable product-based solution offering ready-made features was needed as a content management system, and the aim was to utilize the features more efficiently than before.

Before the renewal project, Kemira, with the help of Taiste, carried out a usability and accessibility audit for the website. In the next phase, Kemira implemented a mini-website related to the responsibility theme, where the design and user interface of the website were further developed on the basis of Taiste’s proposals for action and the views of Kemira’s communication team. The implementation of admin views was also carefully planned. This way, the larger website renewal was tested out through the preceding mini project. 

A high-quality requirements specification that was needed for tendering was an essential part of the preparatory work for the project. The choice of technology also needed a well-founded decision. North Patrol was chosen as the partner to specify the requirements and evaluate the technology choices.

“The requirements were defined during an intensive period, for the most part in August 2020. The work started with an interview round to identify the needs of the different stakeholders for the upcoming website renewal. The views and ideas that emerged were prioritized and further developed in workshops, which worked as the base for making the requirements specification,” says Marketing Technology Manager Junnu Ekman who had an important role in Kemira´s team during the requirements specification and choosing of possible partners. 

The options for technical solutions for the website were also carefully evaluated. Despite previous challenges, WordPress, which was familiar to the content creators, was chosen as the most suitable platform. The use of WordPress was specified as a strict requirement in the offer request documentation for the tendering. Amazon AWS was later chosen as the hosting environment.

After the preparatory work, Kemira continued to compile other tender documentation and prepare the tendering, led by their own IT unit and with the support of their sourcing unit. The request for proposal was sent to a large number of operators which led to eight different offers. Out of those, four with the most potential were selected for further discussions. After careful screening and detailed contract negotiations, Frantic was chosen as the implementation partner. They convinced Kemira by having deep insights, a large offering range and suitable references of successful implementations.  

The actual implementation began in early January and it was clear that agile methods would be used in the implementation. At that time, Kemira’s Communications Manager Liisa Tikkanen had just returned from maternity leave and jumped on the moving train almost immediately, taking responsibility for the implementation project. Liisa emphasizes the importance of high-quality preparatory work: “Thorough preparatory work was definitely the key to success. It made the implementation of the project relatively easy.” The project itself went smoothly without major problems and the publishing happened at the end of March, which is what was intended.

“Thorough preparatory work was definitely the key to success.”

LIISA TIKKANEN, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

It is therefore absolutely essential that even if the implementation project itself is carried out using agile methods, the entity must be carefully planned. High-quality planning and initiation of an agile digital project is crucial. Additionally, Liisa emphasizes the importance of people: “Preparation and advance planning was really important, but without the right people and their input, this would not have been successful in this schedule.”

The new website resolved problems of instability. Employees at Kemira are very pleased that they can now focus on real development instead of constant problem-solving. Kemira’s website renewal has also shown that WordPress is a suitable technical platform solution for a listed company’s multilingual website.

Kemira.com stands out with its look

The visual look of Kemira.com largely follows the brand reform implemented in 2017. In this project, Kemira’s communications team redesigned the site and it was completely redrawn. During the project, Frantic helped Kemira by offering design support for optimizing usability and accessibility, among other things.

“We systematized the design of kemira.com and laid the foundation for a comprehensive design system that we will continue to develop in the future. The design has been driven by the communication needs of different stakeholders and we are now optimizing each module to meet each need in the most aesthetic, usable, and achievable way possible,” says Kemira’s Apichai Chiarakul, Digital Design specialist at Kemira. 

The redesigned and modularized design allows for a more versatile way to present different types of content, such as numerical data. The project made extensive use of participatory methods and co-designing to test different layout options with different stakeholders. One example of this is the section on investor communication, which experienced a significant transformation from the previous one.

Image: Investor front page after and before the renewal. 

The investor team is responsible for content creation and publishing, and they have welcomed the new platform and design with praises: “The investor site was renewed to be more user-friendly: the information is now easier to find and navigating the site is simpler than before,” Mikko Pohjala who leads investor relations at Kemira. 

Kemira’s product pages also underwent a similar transformation. “The aim for improving customer content at Kemira is to consider the different stages of the buying process. We focused a lot on the product pages that are aimed for those site users already quite far in the process. We paid special attention to our strategic product offering and strived for a good customer experience and keyword optimization,” says Junnu.

According to Kemira´s team the site is not fully finished, but some further development areas have already been listed. “Visuality, usability, and accessibility will also be invested into in the future. As a responsible listed company, we want to be at the forefront of developing a website that takes into account the requirements of the EU Accessibility Directive, even though the directive currently only obliges the online services of the public sector,” says Marita.

In the future, Kemira wants to base its development decisions even more on data. To support the development, a new governance model is also being launched that better supports the fast-cycled and continuous development of the website. The potential is enormous and now that the right technical platform is in place, there are now real possibilities for development.

Project details

Kemira.com

Technology platform: WordPress

Project size: 100 000 € – 200 000 € (including the usability and accessibility audit, requirements specification and the implementation project)

Project schedule:

  • June-August 2020: usability and accessibility audit (Taiste)
  • August-September 2020: requirements specification (North Patrol)
  • September-December 2020: Tendering and the selection of partner (Kemira)
  • January-March 2021: Implementation project (Frantic)

(This article has been translated from the Finnish original. Visit our Finnish blog Web-ostajan opas to read the original article.)

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