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Case Study:ELCA Set Out to Create an Excellent User Experience

10 Nov 2017 by Insight Editor

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) supports the needs of more than 4 million members within 10,000 congregations through its public-facing website, When ELCA decided to redesign its site to deliver an improved user experience, it enlisted the help of BlueMetal, a division of Insight.

ELCA wanted to build an excellent user experience that focused on enabling members and seekers of the church to search, find and use disparate information and multimedia materials. The goal was to create a streamlined and simplified search experience that would intuitively provide the most relevant results based on the user's intentions.

In search of simplified search

ELCA had multiple legacy applications that were developed separately from one another, with their own databases, search capabilities and page layouts. This resulted in a sub-optimal user experience, necessitating several separate custom search solutions. For the previous version of the website, ELCA had used a Google appliance with minimal functionality. According to ELCA, the Google appliance was expensive to maintain and was eventually phased out.

Key requirements for the new search experience included the abilities to:

  • Search multiple sources of structured and unstructured information
  • Allow site administrators to apply flexible metadata to SiteCore 6.6 content and have the metadata used by the search solution
  • Search database-driven content — specifically Blackbaud CRM data for people, organizations and places
  • Crawl ELCA's six affiliated sites and return results within a single result set
  • Search multimedia files, PDFs, Microsoft Office files and images
  • Consolidate multiple search screens into a single search experience for locations, people and content
  • Allow users to refine the search results to create more relevant results
  • Provide mapping capabilities and directions to locations in the search results

Wanted: Heightened efficiency

ELCA envisioned the new site would improve the quality of the experience for both end users and administrators of the site. For new and prospective members, the website was intended to be as much of a "catalyst, convener and bridge builder" as the church itself, attracting new members and providing consistency across the experience.

The administration process would be made more efficient, and the manual effort required to update content would be replaced by a fully dynamic content delivery system.

Bringing it all together

ELCA asked BlueMetal to deliver a solution that would improve the user's ability to find the most relevant information based on the intent of their search, including immediate auto-completion within the search box using search index terms. The simplified search solution needed to be device-aware, providing mobile search via a fully responsive design, with the ability to search from the most common mobile devices.

Integration with the church's customer relationship management databases and Google Maps was also critical in order to visualize geographical data and provide location mapping for all ELCA locations. Finally, a federated search on the organization's YouTube channel was essential to enable users to find, view and download the desired YouTube content.

Sharing results

“BlueMetal delivered the framework and vision that I had in mind and even expanded on the initial scope in several areas,” says ELCA’s Chief Information Officer Jonathan Beyer. “They seamlessly integrated SharePoint into the look and feel of our site, giving a common interface to all users.”

The SharePoint search solution has improved interactions with members and potential members of ELCA through enhanced search capabilities and an excellent user experience.

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