The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) supports the needs of over four million members within 10,300 congregations through its public-facing web site, http://www.elca.org. In the summer of 2013, ELCA decided to redesign its site to deliver an improved user experience focused on enabling members and seekers of the Church to search, find and use disparate information and multimedia materials. ELCA's goal was to build an excellent user experience that focused on the needs of seekers, with a streamlined and simplified search experience that intuitively provided the most relevant results based on the user's intentions.
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 their website, ELCA had used a Google Appliance with minimal functionality. Per ELCA, the Google appliance was expensive to maintain and was eventually phased out.
Key requirements for the new search experience included the following:
The goal was to move away from separate search experiences and into a unified "Search for..." concept whenever possible.
ELCA envisioned that 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 envisioned to be as much of a "catalyst, convener and bridge-builder" as is the Church itself, attracting new members and providing consistency across the experience. For administrators, their process was made more efficient, and the manual effort required to update content was replaced with a fully dynamic content delivery system.
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 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 CRM databases and Google maps was also critical, 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. BlueMetal Architects met and exceeded these requirements, delivering a SharePoint 2013 search solution that helps improve interactions with members and potential members of the Lutheran Church through improved search capabilities and end-user experience.