This February saw the exciting launch of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s brand-new mobile-first digital hub, which has been designed and built with inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability in mind.

The Commonwealth Secretariat strives to overcome some of the most significant and challenging issues of our time for its 54 member states. From climate change to wealth inequality to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they deliver the tools and expertise to help 2.5 billion citizens through current global challenges.

To do so effectively, it’s essential they have an online platform that is inclusive of their hugely diverse user base. As their long-term digital partner, Cyber-Duck is proud to have been involved in the creation of their new mobile-first hub.

A screengrab of the new Commonwealth homepage, showing an image of the earth with white space above and below, and new accessible text and titles underneath.

A screenshot from the newly-launched Commonwealth website homepage.

What were the key considerations?

When people are unable to access the internet, they miss out on critical opportunities for economic development, education, healthcare, public safety information, and much more. Many Commonwealth citizens live in less developed countries, in areas with poor internet speeds which can often only be accessed through mobile phone networks. For these reasons, digital accessibility and inclusion were key considerations in the creation of the new site.

Sustainability was also an important factor. The Commonwealth has long been committed to helping its member states to tackle and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and their new website had to reflect these values.

Sustainable web design and digital inclusion are deeply important to us here at Cyber-Duck, so we were excited for the opportunity to work on this project and put principles into action.

Designing and building the new site

To identify the opportunities involving the Commonwealth’s work, and to understand the barriers facing users, Cyber-Duck conducted extensive stakeholder interviews with individuals such as Secretary-General Scotland and His Excellency Dr Kevin M. Isaac, High Commissioner of St. Kitts and Nevis, and others.

We also carried out wide-ranging user research, involving users from Commonwealth countries across the world and delving into their contexts and needs. 

Following the research phase, our teams developed wireframes to map out improved user journeys, designed to help people easily achieve their goals while minimising their environmental impact. New UI designs were created, centred around inclusivity and accessibility.

A series of screenshots of the new Commonwealth Drupal 9 website.

More views of the new website.

The website was migrated to Drupal 9, a newer version of the Drupal platform which opens new possibilities for enhanced performance, functionality and future scalability. A new Algolia search feature was installed to improve the speed and relevance of user searches, empowering users to find the content they need while helping to reduce environmental impact.

Besides the benefits for users, the new website also empowers the Commonwealth’s internal teams, replacing the previous cumbersome systems with more efficient and user-friendly technology. With the new CMS in place, the marketing team can now update their web content effortlessly, meaning that they can quickly publish vital communications.

It’s also now much easier for their technology teams to make changes to the website, allowing them to focus on work which generates real change for their members. This improved efficiency was demonstrated when the Commonwealth required a climate-focused microsite in time for the COP26 summit at the end of October 2021. Thanks to the flexibility and ease of Drupal 9, Cyber-Duck was able to build the microsite quickly and launch in time for the summit.

Front end development work included styling updates and accessibility checks to ensure the new UI is as inclusive as possible. New features such as automated social and economic data visualisations will provide users with real-time information in a way that is accessible and easy to understand.

The new mobile-friendly site aims to ensure that e-learning, campaign information and other vital services can be accessed quickly and easily by the Commonwealth’s user base, wherever they may be located. We are proud to have been involved in this project and look forward to seeing the impact of the new website on the Commonwealth’s worldwide user base.