project case study

Edmonton Southside PCN Website Design & Development



The Challenge

The team and stakeholders at Southside PCN were handcuffed by their old website. To name a few challenges: content was difficult / impossible to manage; hundreds of staff were frustrated by the existing staff portal, where they got their news, managed documents, accessed their email & more; and the user experience for end users searching for physicians & clinics was sub-optimal. We were tasked to use design & technology to solve all these problems with a single platform.

The Solution

We built a robust, enterprise-level custom website with guidance from the staff & users of Southside PCN. Through initial user & Analytics research, we knew what users wanted & what pain points were top-priority to solve. With that in mind, we designed a solution, through quick iteration with the client, and built the site using WordPress as a CMS. The end result is a site that has a ton of functionality, from a custom importer for location data through to management of hundreds of users.

Key Project Features

  • Research & User Personas
  • Wireframes
  • Website Design
  • Responsive Design [View]
  • Customized WordPress CMS
  • Location Importer
  • Staff Portal
  • User Role Management
  • Jobs & News Board
  • Drag-n-Drop Content
  • Document Management

The Details

Design is how something makes you feel – and often, we’re brought in to help solve the problem where a previous design isn’t making any users feel good. That’s what this project was all about. But first, we’ll let the team at Southside PCN tell you what they’re all about, in their own words:

Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network (PCN) consists of a team of medical professionals who work with your family physician to improve your overall health. We have over 65 member clinics with 231 family physicians, and more than 100 PCN staff wanting to help you out.

Our team of healthcare providers each play a specific role in improving, coordinating and delivering primary health services. Our primary care teams are composed of nurses, nurse practitioners, geriatric nurses, social workers, behavioural health consultants, registered dietitians, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists and administrative staff.

What does that all mean? It means that, when Southside PCN came to us needing a ground-up rebuild of the site, we had a big user base to account for. Every family on the south half of Edmonton & area, alongside hundreds and hundreds of PCN-associated clinicians and staff … all accessing the site from a variety of devices, browsers, operating systems and more.

But hey, if we’re not in it for the challenge and to build things people love to use, then why bother?

Out with the Old, In With the New

The existing PCN site was a good solution at the time, but over the years it had begun to show its age (like many sites do). The team managing the content over at Edmonton Southside PCN were locked into a dated content management system that didn’t give them the flexibility they needed to accomplish their goals; the site wasn’t responsive; content was difficult to find thanks to a dissociative information architecture – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It was time for a change.

That change started with unpacking the specifics of all the varied users of the site in order to take their wants, needs, and challenges into account. Luckily, the team over at Southside PCN had taken the initiative to run a survey, which provide us all with a number of great insights into what the users needed from the site for it to be a success. From there, we fleshed out the information architecture and the site features with the users in mind, and the client got started on copywriting while we jumped into wireframes:


The scope of the site was huge, and the technical considerations were complex. We were tasked with using design and technology to help solve a variety of problems, including: helping users sort through hundreds of clinics & physicians to find the right one quickly; allowing PCN staff to log in and access private documents, news & events; allowing site managers to manage these hundreds of logged-in users; and more.

Find a Physician

The real crown jewel of the whole project is the “Find a Physician” functionality. Through Analytics & user research, it was clear that the large majority of traffic to the site involved users needing to find a physician or clinic that met their needs. It’s a more challenging problem than it seems on the surface – the existing data source was a huge spreadsheet; users are accessing from a huge range of devices & in various contexts; users are looking for specific variables like clinics that are open 24 hours, or accepting new patients, or are multilingual; and more.

We ended up solving the problem by writing a custom parser, which allows PCN staff to upload their database CSV through a simple back-end uploader in WordPress. This, in turn, reformats the data and writes each clinic & physician entry into its own custom post type in WordPress, and displays all the information in both an interactive map view & a filterable list view. What this means for PCN staff is that all they had to do was upload one CSV and everything else was taken care of by the system – and the users on the front end finally had a simple, quick way to find the physician or clinic that was right for them.import

Staff Portal

Another key item on the wishlist was a staff portal – essentially, a secure section of the site wherein registered users of the site can log in to access information only privy to them. We extended WordPress’ basic user role management to create & handle hundreds of unique users; then, we designed a dashboard with the immediate need-to-know information available to the signed-in users immediately after login. This includes frequently accessed documents; staff news; events listings and more, and basic registered users never see WordPress’ admin.

It’s not a simple task to handle hundreds of registered users while maintaining security, performance, and usability – but both us and the client are happy with the result.

Custom Content Management with Drag ‘n’ Drop Functionality

WordPress is too often associated with “basic” sites, or sites that are slapped together. The truth is, if you know how to use WordPress right, it becomes a super powerful, enjoyable content management system – much different than the experience you’re likely used to. That’s how we choose to use WordPress; almost like a pHp framework that we build up in order to stay lean & user-friendly.

This is the approach we took with the new Southside PCN site. Page & post editing screens are customized with the use of tabs, fields, and multiple editors, which means editing content is intuitive and built around the site layout. As we mentioned, the map & list view of physicians & clinics are handled automatically through a simple CSV upload. And finally, we implemented a live-view drag & drop editor, which means site staff can easily move, edit, and change content through a WSYWIG editor. It’s a really innovative way to empower semi-technical staff to experiment with copy, layout, and content management. We’re excited to use this more & more going forward.


The Takeaway

The end result is a modern, flexible custom website that’s easy to use for everyone involved: content managers, PCN staff, and front-end users alike. Stories are already rolling in from real users who have used the new PCN site to find the right physician for them – something they had failed to accomplish on the outdated version of the site. The whole project is a testament to clients & agencies shedding their titles and truly working together, while listening to & applying real user feedback & input. That’s how great teams are formed, and it takes a great team to make a great project successful.

Paper Leaf did a wonderful job of meeting our goals and expectations. It was a massive and detailed project with specific timelines. The result was an engaging and branded website that is easy for our primary audiences to use.

Tamara Vineberg

Communications Specialist

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