Polar Bears International

Once in a while you get a chance to do your job and help a cause that you care deeply about. Polar Bears International is an amazing organization that is dedicated to studying and preserving polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, PBI has an inspiring mission to teach the next generation about the importance of preserving and protecting the arctic and the wildlife and people who depend on it for survival.

Polar Bears International Home
Polar Bears International Home

Working with the amazing team at No Fixed Address, I was the UX Lead on this inspiring redesign of the Polar Bears International website – the main funding engine of the entire organization. We were able to create a great balance between stunning visuals and clear, accessible communication of the organization’s educational and conservation mission.

The Goal

Polar Bears International has been around for more than twenty years and their mission has grown to encompass the Canadian and Greenland arctic ice. In this time, they have protected hundreds of bears and educated thousands on the important issues of arctic protection and conservation. Unfortunately, their online fundraising efforts were declining – being hampered by a recent redesign that had left the site languishing in SEO and donations from visitors falling. Our mission was to help figure out what had gone wrong with the previous redesign and make it right with a complete rethink of the user experience and a re-platforming of the CMS backend.

The Approach

After initial customer and SEO research, we started by redesigning the information architecture of the site. It became clear early in the research phase that the way the site was organized was causing confusion for customers and hurting the site’s search rankings, which was obviously hampering fundraising. Our redesign of the site structure prioritized clarity for visitors – establishing a clear mental model in the navigation which aided users in finding their way around the site and making use of the resources available. This also improved the SEO rankings of the site due to organizing key information in a way that could be easily indexed.

Next we created a series of wireframes to embody the changes that we were planning for the redesigned site. These targeted key pages in the experience to refine the presentation and get client engagement and alignment on the design direction early. From there we built out a gorgeous series of high fidelity mockups (the design team at NFA really were stellar), including subtle and beautiful animations and interactions that really made use of the stunning photography of the PBI photographic contributors. From there the dev team built out the design vision into a fast, responsive, high performance site that makes use of the latest headless CMS technology to maximize SEO rankings and provide easy editing and management for the PBI team.

The Results

I am thrilled to say that the relaunch of the Polar Bears International was a huge success. SEO rankings were restored – in fact, vastly improved – and the new design drove a significant increase in site usage and engagement, which lead to a 50% increase in donations in the first year since relaunch. Polar Bears International are now positioned to continue their great work for the foreseeable future and they have a solid digital foundation to build on. 

Polar Bears International Polar Bear Stories
Polar Bears International Internal Page

The content that Polar Bears International has created really shines in this new design, bringing the mission alive and the polar bears to the forefront. With stunning photography and subtle typography, users can dig right into the best the PBI has to offer. The content is a huge part of PBIs mission, and it was a pleasure to give it a new life and a new prominence in the PBI mission.

Polar Bears International Tundra Connections
Polar Bears International Tundra Cams

Polar Bears International’s other digital media is what really captivates the students who are such a large part of the PBI mission. From Tundra Connections webcast series that connects directly with students in classrooms across North America to the Tundra Cams that give live access to key viewpoints in Canada’s arctic. My favourite is the Tundra Buggy which takes kids across the ice in search of polar bears in a six wheel all terrain research vehicle.