Building an Online Fitness Directory

The UI and functionality of LiveWellSTL's pilot version generated additional funding for a responsive design and a feature-rich back end.
Success breeds... additional funding.

Data portals, data warehouses, data dashboards, open data… it's a data-crazy world out there. Ten years ago who would have thought a database of product reviews would have a bigger impact on sales than a television campaign? Today creative designers and writers need to understand databases and computer logic to create effective communications.

Midwest Health Initiative (MHI) had a good idea: A comprehensive online directory where St. Louis residents could easily search for health and fitness events and classes. With their first round of funding, Wowza created the brand identity, information architecture, database design, search and filtering functionality and a custom user interface. With this fully functional prototype, MHI was able to attract additional funding allowing Wowza to build a back-end data submission portal and make LivewellSTL.org fully responsive for optimum performance on any mobile device.

Simplifying a Healthcare Measure

Wowza's branding of a healthcare measure for one client worked so well that the measure is now called The D5 across the country.
Branding. It's not just for sneakers and soda pop.

A user's first impression determines if he'll stay with your site or click away. Look at your site through your customers' eyes and ask yourself: How does it compare with the competition? Is the message on target? Is the content consistent with the business strategy? Because a website, or application, is most often a critical communication touch point or a product in itself, its name and visual identity are integral to the success of your enterprise.

The D5 is a single healthcare measure that consists of five different measures. Doctors are evaluated on their diabetes care and scored on the single measure, yet they are only counted if all five measures are met. When we designed and built a web-based consumer report for Minnesota Community Measurement that compared doctors on this complex measure, we understood that the measure needed a name. So we branded it The D5. Branding not only made the data more easily understood, it set the stage for a successful integrated awareness campaign. It worked so well that now the measure is called The D5 across the country.

Testing with Paper Prototypes

Paper prototype testing during the early stages eliminates unnecessary revisions and improves the user experience.
Confusion cured. Mistakes avoided.

Do people really understand how to use your application? To find out, you can pore over analytics reports, or conduct secondary research after the fact. We conduct primary qualitative usability testing as a powerful method for uncovering useful insights on usability. Having regular folks use a site to accomplish desired goals identifies specific obstacles that interfere with user engagement. Designers and content strategists are often surprised by the subtle details that can stop a user in her tracks. Finding issues during the prototype phase saves a lot of time and money, although testing a live site can also guide major changes or redesigns down the right path.

Before we wrote a single line of code we mocked up the user interface for Leaving-Well.org using low fidelity wireframe layouts. This low-tech qualitative testing technique, pioneered by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, removes the influence of the hardware and graphical interface to test the core UX concepts. In this test we discovered that users were confused by some of the labeling and the way certain content was organized. By observing users directly, our designers and developers were able to quickly identify problems and produce a more usable site in less time.

Creating a Data Preview Portal

Wowza created a secure, online portal for physicians to verify their data before it was publicly displayed.
Stronger relationships. Fewer complaints.

Customers aren't the only people you need to connect and engage. Most organizations have multiple stakeholders such as boards, community members, partners, investors, regulators and employees. Creating user-friendly dashboards and convenient portals to communicate or share data can greatly improve workflow and increase efficiency across many business functions, including HR, finance, governance and community relations.

KCQIC, the Kansas City Quality Improvement Coalition, brings health care quality data to the public. Because their website uses data from a variety of sources, including insurance companies, KCQIC needed to earn the trust and cooperation of providers and payers. Wowza built a web app that allowed doctors and hospitals to log into a secure site, review the data, and catch any errors before the data went public.

Designing a Responsive Data-driven Website

Wowzilla built APCDShowcase.org on a Drupal CMS, according to the University of New Hampshire's requirements.
Adding a relief valve to a high-pressure team.

In-house developers and project managers can be over-booked or may not have specific skills in user interface design or data integration. Bringing in extra hands helps get lagging projects off the shelf and into the world. In some cases this might mean outsourcing a project from beginning to end. But more often it's collaboration, bringing in new ideas or helpful skills to fill a gap. Taking the pressure off the internal team helps everyone do his or her best work and get the projects out the door.

The APCD Council, an organization within the University of New Hampshire (UNH), wanted to archive and distribute a database full of case studies through a responsive, user-friendly website.

UNH internal designers and developers were swamped. So Wowzilla, a strategic partnership with Wowza and web portal firm Ancilla Partners, designed and developed the new site according to UNH specifications, integrating it into their existing Drupal environment.

Developing Mobile Apps

Wouldn't it be great if your customers and prospects used and appreciated your branded tool regularly?
Take your brand on the road.

Anything that's been done the same way for many years is a candidate for improvement through data-driven web technology. Take a mental walk through your operation and think about what could be done faster with a web or mobile app. Could you provide better customer service if the customer had more input or control? Are there manual bridges in your workflow that could be automated? What about marketing? Wouldn't it be great if your customers and prospects used and appreciated your branded tool regularly?

The Quickscale calculator app we designed, branded and built for Feyereisen Studios served as a marketing outreach vehicle and a client touch point for the architectural model-building firm. Feyereisen was able to distribute the app to key prospects and used this novel, niche product as a way to generate PR and attract attention from new prospects.

We created the Leaving Well app as a companion to the end-of-life care website we designed for HealthInsight. It makes it easy for families and caregivers to access critical end-of-life information and capture and share their own important thoughts.

Apps need not be serious tools to be effective methods to connect and communicate. We had fun creating Little Toy Box and Bird Choir to entertain toddlers – which is serious business! See all of our apps at our microsite: wowzaapp.com

Following 508 Compliance

Wowza worked closely with the client to meet state-required accessibility regulations, without sacrificing the user experience.
Follow the regulations and nobody gets hurt.

Some industries, like financial services, insurance and healthcare, have laws and regulations that govern what, or how, certain information can be presented. If funding is coming from the government, 508 accessibility compliance may be required. Businesses sometimes have their own internal policies around data security, privacy or brand standards as well.

It was important to the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine that data on MainePatientExperienceMatters.org be presented in an engaging, user-friendly manner to the general public. But it also needed to be 508 compliant. This required Wowza to optimize the site and test the design for screen readers, keyboard navigation and color blindness. Meeting these requirements – and many others – keeps the client in good standing with their governmental funders and furthers their mission to improve healthcare for everyone in Maine.

Caring About Healthcare Research

Wowza designed and developed seven different variations of a web app allowing researchers to analyze user interactions.
Data in. Data out. It's a win-win.

The web has revolutionized how data is presented. Remember when you got the weather and stock quotes from the newspaper? Or when real estate agents lugged printed listings around with grainy black and white photos? Not only are there new opportunities to present data, there may be even better opportunities to collect it. Imagine what you could learn if you incorporated data collection into your website strategy. Your website could have the potential to be the best business intelligence system you ever have.

Select MD is both a data report and a data collection site. It's an experimental site that's part of a multi-year research project led by a collaborative team from Yale University, the Rand Corporation and other healthcare quality researchers. The team is studying how people use web-reported healthcare data to make decisions. To conduct the experiment Wowza designed and developed a data-driven web app with seven different experimental arms. Each arm presents a different set of data. The site randomizes some of the data presented and tracks each unique user and all the relevant user interactions such as: where the user went, how long he stayed and which doctors he chose. The complex databases are designed according to the research protocol and the data collected exported for the researchers to analyze.

Wowza is

a small creative studio making data-driven websites and applications.

We are a small team with diverse talents and skills – one that works in harmony with our clients to get the job done on time, within the budget and without unnecessary drama. While some projects may be suited for talented freelancers or for large companies, we believe most benefit from a small team's focused attention and flexibility.

Our Services

Strategy & Research

  • Consulting
  • Content Audits
  • Technology Evaluation
  • Qualitative Market Research
  • Survey Development and Implementation
  • Online/offline Focus Group Facilitation
  • User Persona Development
  • Analytics

Content

  • Content Strategy
  • Copywriting
  • Content Management

UX & Design

  • Site Branding
  • User Interface
  • User Experience
  • Art Direction

Development

  • Responsive Web Development
  • Node.js Development
  • Advanced Javascript
  • Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla
  • Database Design and Management
  • Mobile Apps: iOS, Android, Windows
  • API Design and Implementation
  • Ongoing Maintenance
Meet Our Team
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Jeff Rabkin

President and Creative Director

We sell ideas, and with Jeff leading the team we'll never run out of inventory. Jeff combines creative and strategic thinking to attack any problem; be it a brand position, a business model, a user interface or a sheep-grazing plan.

Jeff holds a B.A. in Humanities from the University of Minnesota and post-graduate degree from The Minneapolis School of Advertising, Design and Interactive Studies.

His varied background includes experience as an editorial photographer, advertising copywriter and brand strategist. Prior to starting Wowza Jeff worked on large corporate campaigns, including Target Stores, Radisson Hotels, United Way, General Mills, Cargill, the United States Air Force and the famous evangelist Billy Graham.

Since 2003 Jeff has led his team to produce great ideas for clients big and small, and to become experts in the growing field of health care transparency and online data reporting.

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Melissa Hillmyer

Account Strategist

Get to the point. Get it done. Move on. As an account strategist Melissa doesn't just keep everything and everyone on track. She has the strategic intelligence and common sense to make sure the track is heading to the right place.

Melissa holds a B.A. in Marketing and Communications from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Since 2007, Melissa has been the glue that binds together Wowza's skills and delivers them to our clients on time, on budget and without unnecessary drama. On her long commute from the far side of town Melissa brings a trunk-load of skills, including project management, strategy, consumer research, usability and deep knowledge in healthcare data and public data reporting.

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Sarah Rathe

Art Director

Sarah is wicked smart, responsible and able to endow the most mundane things with style and panache. A graphic designer and art director for over 15 years, Sarah is both the visual conscience and voice of reason at Wowza. She makes sure that form isn't undermined in the service of function. She also bakes excellent chocolate chip cookies.

Sarah holds a B.A. in Studio Art and a post-graduate degree in Graphic Design from The Minneapolis School of Advertising, Design and Interactive Studies.

Sarah was Wowza's first employee, and over the past ten years has produced outstanding work for countless clients in a wide range of industries including: academics; finance; retail; professional services; entertainment; education and healthcare.

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Laura Moncrieff

Chief Financial Officer

People wish they could win the lottery. We feel luckier to have Laura on our team. We couldn't spend hours poring over our clients' important data if Laura weren't here to manage ours.

Laura holds a B.A. in English from Carleton College, a J.D. from the University of Minnesota, and worked in tax law at a public accounting firm. After realizing practicing law wasn't her scene, she took to keeping books and keeping small business owners out of jail and bankruptcy.

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Zack Carlson

Back-end Developer

Most humans have two sides to their brains. It’s possible that Zack has four. That’s the only way to account for his ability to master the complex and varied technologies, databases, programming languages, software, hardware and mystical data transmogrifications he performs daily.

Zack specializes in the creation and management of systems. He has over 12 years of web development experience and has shared his quadri-spheric brain with Wowza since 2008.

Zack is fluent in PHP, MySQL, CSS including SASS, HTML 5, Javascript and American English. He also speaks baby talk to his infant daughter.

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Will Garrison

User Experience Developer

In the physical world Will doesn't have a very good sense of direction. So he designs digital worlds where it's easy to find your way. Will is not only a brilliant UI/UX designer, he also codes like a maniac and is a heck-of-a-great guy.

Will studied artificial intelligence at Huntingdon College, but there is nothing artificial about him or his intelligence. Mostly self-taught, Will loves learning new technologies that he quickly and eagerly masters to keep clients on the cutting edge.

Will brought his considerable gifts to Wowza in 2006 and has since helped clients across the country organize, visualize, protect and appreciate their data and the stories it tells.

We may be small, but we're still process driven.

Our Process

At Wowza we consider everyone creative. Our developers, designers and content strategists work as a unified creative team throughout our overlapping, semi-linear four phase process:

Discovery

We answer who, what, where, why, when. We conduct primary and secondary research and start the planning and project management that will get everything done on time and budget.

Schematic Design

The paper and pencil, whiteboard, sticky note, prototyping, pizza-eating phase. Wading through tons of ideas and directions to get to the one that works.

Design Development

The “making it real” phase. When the narrative, content, data, artwork and user experience all come together into a pixel perfect front-end.

Construction

It gets geeky at this point. This is when we do the code-writing, quality testing and bug fixing. Then more testing. Retesting. Installing, launching and training.
Bonus Phase:

Celebrate!

This phase is brief because as we know, a website is never done. As soon as a project is launched it has to be maintained and nurtured to grow into the future.

Guided by our values and beliefs.

Our Philosophy

Here are the core values and beliefs that guide our working relationships and processes.

Our Values:

  • We won't take short-term gains at the expense of our long-term reputation.
  • We expect to be paid fairly for our participation and contributions.
  • Friends are more important than money.
  • We look out for each other.
  • Respect is baseline.
  • Humanity > technology
  • Trust. Trust. Trust.

Our Beliefs:

  • Molehills aren't mountains.
  • Technologies can have unintended consequences.
  • Data and statistics are technologies.
  • People make mistakes.
  • Machines break.
  • One's confidence to competence ratio should be 1:1
  • Emotional intelligence is just as valuable as intellectual intelligence.
  • Collaboration is more productive than competition.
  • Everyone has the same 24 hours a day.
  • We don't have all the answers. Nobody does.
So What's Wowzilla?

So, what's Wowzilla?

We once competed for a project with Milwaukee-based Ancilla Partners, a team of web developers. The client ended up hiring Wowza to design and develop the front end of the site, and Ancilla Partners to build a specialized healthcare data portal. Since then our two companies have formed a strategic alliance that we call Wowzilla. It combines all of our extensive expertise in reporting healthcare quality data.

You can learn more about Wowzilla here.

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