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The SAA: Web Design & Development

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The SAA (Supporting All Artists) – the world’s biggest art community – approached us to redesign and expand the ‘Community’ area of its website. The community pages resided on the main e-commerce website (built using Magento), where the SAA sells art supplies to its members, which wasn’t ideal. We were tasked with building a separate community portal in WordPress, which would be more easily manageable and scalable going forward.

The SAA Community is aimed primarily at SAA members and gives them access to exclusive video, magazine and blog content as part of their membership. More importantly, the portal is a directory for artists, where they can create a profile page, showcase their artwork, advertise classes and workshops, and promote upcoming exhibitions.

UX Design

Our challenge was to create a seamless experience between the e-commerce store and the community area, so members could transition between the two with ease. We also needed to promote the growing benefits of becoming an SAA member.

Due to the target audience demographics, expected user journey and behaviours, and vast amount of existing content and data, we began the process with a visit to the client’s head office in Newark, followed by a session where we mapped out each section of the website and created design sprints for delivery. This helped us to identify the scores of pages we would need to design. Each page went through a detailed wireframing process before being reviewed and created as high-fidelity GUI designs.

The SAA’s mission is to Inform, Encourage and Inspire people on their artistic journey, so we used those keywords as the basis for the primary header nav and information architecture.


The Art Index was designed to hold all of the artists’ information, including detailed profile information, artworks they’ve uploaded, tuitions they’re running and exhibitions where they’re showing. Membership is particularly popular with an older demographic, so we focused on making the process of adding info to the site as easy and intuitive as possible.

For visitors wishing to use the directory for discovery purposes, we designed a series of search pages and filters tailored to the type of content being served. For example, we created powerful map and location search features for finding local art clubs, classes, workshops and exhibitions. In other areas, such as artwork galleries, we focused the search functionality around the imagery itself, designing visual search result pages with specific search criteria.

The SAA delivers a wide range of premium content to its members, including live video tutorials and workshops, blogs and articles, and a physical and digital version of Paint magazine. We created bespoke sections designed to showcase the content available, with relevant search features to simplify the navigation of the vast content library.

Enhanced Website Functionality

VOD is a new feature which we’ve added with the relaunch of the SAA Community site. The new VOD area includes interviews with artists and live tutorial and workshop recordings, as well as an expanding library of digitised archive videos. We designed and built this section to be highly scalable as it will need to house the abundance of video content that will be added to what is already a substantial library. Netflix here we come!

User Engagement

Another way the SAA engages its members is through regular challenges, including the popular ‘Artist of the Year’ competition. Our goal with this section was not only to re-imagine the layout of the pages but also to ensure the entering and judging of challenges would be a more streamlined process. Previous methods involving Excel spreadsheets and third-party entry forms had proven particularly arduous, so the challenges team needed a solution that could be managed more easily through the website.

The new and improved challenges area will allow the SAA to judge multi-round, multi-category challenges and manage thousands of entries in a far cleaner, logical and more intuitive way.

Technical Considerations

Not only were we building a site that needed to cater to the requirements of a diverse and not overly tech-savvy user demographic, but we also had a huge amount of existing content and data to migrate from the Magento platform into WordPress.

Arguably, our biggest challenge on this project came in rationalising and migrating the data (somewhere in the region of 250k pages), not to mention the accompanying SEO task to ensure a seamless user experience and the correct transferral of link juice. We also had to find a way to handle the 10 different membership types that would need to be passed seamlessly from Magento to WordPress to ensure users could only access relevant content.

Early Feedback

The new SAA Community area has just launched so it’s early days, but the site appears to have bedded in nicely and member feedback suggests we may well have a mini-masterpiece on our hands! We’re looking forward to monitoring how visitors are engaging with the new site, so we can make further recommendations for an even better user experience.

If you’re thinking of signing up for a local art class or would like to find an exhibition taking place near you, why not give the SAA’s Art Index a whirl? We’d love to hear what you think.

Visit the website

The SAA community website on various devices
SAA user flow diagrams
The SAA VOD demo
SAA community site on mobile device
The SAA community video on demand section

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