Canada’s community centre: Uniting the YMCA under a common web platform

The YMCA of Canada serves over 2 million people and 100 communities in Canada, with 52 independent YMCA associations. Each location has several online touch points, including corporate websites, intranets, and microsites — all of which are built on disparate technologies, hosted by different providers, and all funded and operated independently. While the demand for access to online information and services is ever-increasing, most individual YMCAs struggle to maintain their existing portfolio of websites. Operating expenses for managing this portfolio are high; maintaining internal standards and procedures is challenging; content and features in many cases are outdated; and finding funding to develop new features and functions is difficult, given the scale of emerging needs.

We were engaged by YMCA Canada to deliver a new online platform for YMCA associations -- one with a consistent user experience that would reflect the organization’s common brand standards, while maintaining the local community personality of each Y. They wanted a solution that would empower associations to build, update, and maintain their portfolio of websites in a simplified, cost-effective way, as well as expand their marketing capabilities.

We began with a full UX and design audit, employing usability testing to inform our recommendations. Knowing the end product would serve dozens of associations with disparate needs, we designed toward a flexible, modular template that would look great regardless of which features and pages associations chose. We brought the designs to life with a common web platform, built with Kentico EMS.

YMCA Home Page 1
YMCA Home Page 2

Key user experience features

  • Usability testing to determine the best user experience
  • Responsive site that swaps out certain functional widgets to optimize usability for individual platforms
  • Flexible navigation that provides multiple points of entry into information
  • Ability for users to set a preferred location, allowing them to access localized schedule and program information

Key design features

  • Modern, responsive design
  • Standardized branding that gives a consistent look and feel to all associations, while still allowing for associations to maintain their community voice
  • Modular design that allows associations to pick and choose the features and functionality they need
YMCA Mobile Home Page 1
YMCA Mobile Home Page 2

Key technical features

  • Custom Kentico EMS 8-based YMCA Association Website Template, featuring:
    • A shared library of page templates and widgets
    • Content sharing and content publishing from one hub
    • Location/facility microsites
    • Geolocation features
    • Social media integration
    • Online donations functionality
    • A responsive, WCAG web accessibility compliant user interface
  • CMS that allows common, shared content to be published across sites
  • An enterprise software development and deployment process that enables new and enhanced CWP features to be created and easily deployed – both to the core CWP codebase but also to each existing CWP-based YMCA association website
  • A centralized website management and hosting solution, based on the Amazon Cloud
  • A cost-sharing and standardized approach to ongoing maintenance and development of the platform and the provision of training and support services to YMCA association website management staff
  • Fast and affordable creation of websites for association members
  • Ongoing monetary savings, through the sharing of operational costs
  • Rollout of the YMCA’s new national brand standards through the common web platform
  • Implementation of new best practices and procedures for website management, publishing, and analytics