Fast facts

Client: Brand Canberra, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, ACT Government

What they needed: a purpose, structure and brand voice for Canberra’s flagship site

What we did: user research, stakeholder engagement, information architecture and content delivery

What we learned: integrating PR messaging with human-centred design

The result: a site whose clarity of purpose stands with the best in the world

“Through Matt’s expert knowledge and excellent workshop facilitation, he opened up communication channels and built effective collaboration amongst the stakeholders.” – Brodie Nicholls, Director, Brand Canberra


digital strategy



Before you build the house, you need to lay the foundations. So before the ACT Government set out to redesign and redevelop – its flagship site for promoting Canberra to Australia and the world – they asked for our help to define the strategic intent and create the structure (information architecture).

This was a particularly complicated project, because not only had the ACT Government decided to redevelop, but they’d also decided to retire three other sites and merge them with the new flagship site (based on earlier strategy work we’d done). And each of those sites belonged to different business areas, with their own audiences, stakeholders and subject matter.

We set to work.

Our approach

Challenge 1: audience

The new site had one clear mission: to promote Canberra as a place to live, study, work and do business.

But the existing site was too promotional. It foregrounded news and imagery, to the point where the site wasn’t useful. 

information architecture

Our research – including SEO keyword analysis and website feedback capture – showed that people also needed concrete information when they decided:

  • where to live
  • how to find work
  • what Canberra’s schooling system is like

We needed to bring depth to But we couldn’t go overboard and overload the site with information. Many other parts of the ACT Government wanted detailed transactional information to be stored on this site.

We tackled this problem of focus with a simple visual model to show what content belonged on and what content on ACT Government sites.

information architecture

Having a clear model then gave us a reference point we could refer stakeholders to in those conversations about what content belonged where. 

Challenge 2: deciding what content to prioritise

So many communications teams we work with are over-stretched and under-resourced. They feel like there’s always more they could be doing.

But out of all the things you could do, what should you do? What option will deliver the most value?  For the new site, this question was relevant because ED would need to maintain the site into the future. We didn’t want to design a site structure that would demand more fresh content than our client was resourced to create.

We solved this problem with a communications prioritisation tool – the Northstar Framework – that we designed especially for this client. We’ve since used it in many other projects, and taught it in our workshops.

information architecture

This part of the work started being useful even before the new site launched. With this tool, our client could instantly assess new ideas and existing content, and decide what was worth running with. The tool even helped save one business area more than $40,000.

Challenge 3: structuring the new site

We’d laid the groundwork. Now we needed to design a structure for the new site: the information architecture that would form the foundations for the new site. This meant replacing five different sites’ structures with one coherent navigation. We did that through:

  • Stakeholder engagement: staff interviews and workshops to find their Northstar – the ideal intersection of user needs, business requirements, unique value and resources
  • User research: taking each audience group, understanding what information they needed and the role of our website in their decision-making processes
  • Content auditing: capturing what topics the current sites covered, to show the potential scope of the new site
  • Comparator analysis: reviewing similar sites to identify patterns we could use
  • User testing: validating our information architecture through in-person moderated testing
  • Content modelling: identifying the components needed on each page, to inform the page layout 

Challenge 4: delivering the content

We had the structure, and had collaborated with a web design agency on the visual layer and layout. But we didn’t want to stop there and just hand over the framework for the site – an empty shell. When we do content strategies for our clients, we like to get tactical:  to plan out the content they’ll need to make the site work, then roll up our sleeves and help them write it.

For this project, we: 

  • developed a brand voice, messaging strategy and personas to guide content creation
  • scoped out the effort needed to create the content and set up all the systems, including GatherContent; a cloud-based authoring tool
  • stood up a team of expert writers to create the content and manage that through the clearance process

The result

We’ve helped to create a city site that stands with some of the best in the world. It’s both on brand and in line with what users need. It tells the story of Canberra, and it’s backed by evergreen, useful content to bring people to the point where they’re ready to commit: to study, live or work in Canberra.

The results lie in the site itself — and in the new thinking emerging in the business areas we worked with. Brodie Nicholls, Director of Brand Canberra, sums it up:

“Through Matt’s expert knowledge and excellent workshop facilitation, he was able to open up communication channels and build effective collaboration amongst the stakeholders. The result was a clear strategy, based on foundational thinking. 

This has seen a definite shift in the way content is created. The team feels they have a clear direction and they want to do the right thing by the brand, which is creating content that pays attention to what the audience needs to hear.” – Brodie Nicholls, Director, Brand Canberra


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