Together We Make a Nation (TWMN) is an interactive documentary about former refugee women living in New Zealand. A collaboration between Story Inc. and Ackama, it was funded by NZ on Air and was a finalist in the 2017 Best Design Awards.
Interactive documentaries are more explorative than traditional broadcast documentaries. They have become a creative vessel delivering a bigger message to users, allowing them to create their own pathway through the stories and information to determine their own outcome or actions.
The TWMN website needed to be simple, intuitive and responsive so that the user journey could happen naturally. The technology behind the different elements could be complex but the pathways and choices had to be clear in order to make the user experience enjoyable and immersive.
It also had to look fantastic. Aesthetically, we chose a bold look inspired by the refugee olympic flag, a kiwi element with the koru and natural light photography for a more human feel. This created a strong, recognisable brand that was used across the site, for all social media and in print.
How can we make it easy for people to know what content is available, why is it important and what they can do next? To answer these questions, Ackama’s experienced UX design team created:
After some intensive design workshops, three main elements emerged:
TWMN wanted to inform users about the current refugee crisis, and put it into a NZ context early on in their journey. Ackama solved this by creating an interactive, provocational piece at the start of the website. It evokes empathy so when it’s time to watch one of the interactive documentaries, the user is already part of this story.
Ackama built a custom video player to enhance audience interaction with the documentaries. When watching one of the documentaries icons appear on the screen allowing users to explore additional multimedia content; extra interviews, research, archival footage and photos or links for more resources. This means the user is in control of their journey, they can navigate through the content at their own pace and in any order, dig deeper into content that interests them and choose an interactive response at the completion of each documentary.
Accessibility was important to TWMN. They wanted users to be able to view and interact with the site no matter where they were, or what device they were using. Research showed that mobile responsiveness wasn’t common with other interactive documentaries and often users would have a lesser experience because they are using a smaller device. Ackama has removed this barrier by making Together We Make a Nation’s interactivity responsive on all devices including mobiles.
TWMN launched at the end of January 2017, a positive story in the maelstrom of negative international news about refugee rights, Muslim rights and women's rights. As a result the interest in and coverage of the launch exceeded the expectations of the team. There was coverage in a wide range of media including Seven Sharp, The Spinoff and Stuff. TWMN received over 6,500 visitors and nearly 30,000 page views in the first six months.
TWMN was a 2017 finalist at the Best Design Awards. The awards are an annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product, interactive and motion design organised by The Designers Institute of New Zealand.
The platform proved to be a very useful tool for communities and educators. It is currently being used by NZ Red Cross in their training programmes, by schools, students and community organisations. Looking ahead, TWMN, is in the process of developing specific educational resources to be used in conjunction with the site.
Most importantly TWMN showcased the stories of four very different women in a respectful and engaging way, and they are all very happy with the result.