Content strategy and design system for the new digital presence of the German Armed Forces

Author: Christina Schiffler

How do you bring together around 70 websites with content that is sometimes difficult to find and not very user-friendly on a single platform? A well-founded content strategy and a modern design system can help - as was the case with the Bundeswehr's website relaunch.

Many citizens know little about the German Armed Forces or are critical of it. In the media you hear about lack of personnel, inoperable equipment and controversial operations. At the end of 2019, the German Armed Forces had little to counter this on the internet: the old website was confusing and conveyed an image that was no longer up-to-date. Important issues were spread across almost 70 individual websites, difficult to find and not presented in a user-friendly way.

In order to achieve the objective of “acting and communicating together as ‘one’ German Armed Forces”, Aperto, part of the IBM iX family of agencies, supported the realignment of the digital media landscape on behalf of the BWI (German public IT services provider). Based on a new digital and content strategy and a modern system, the overall appearance of the bundeswehr.de website was developed from many individual websites using revised content, clear information architecture, contemporary design and interactive infographics. And above all: with insights into the everyday life and motivation of the people who shape the German Armed Forces.

The role of content strategy

What is a content strategy anyway? Basically, it provides clear guidelines for strategic planning, creation, optimisation and distribution of content. This is based on surveys and analyses of operating environments and usage practices. In this way, positive user experiences are created with relevant subjects, and the jointly defined goals are realised.

The establishment of goals and target groups, as well as the relevant subjects and access to the content, are all elements of the content strategy. Based on this, a tonality concept and initial ideas for content formats are developed. In the specific case of the German Armed Forces, we focused on four communication principles: reliability, responsiveness, openness and umbrella brand orientation. These are all crucial for the development of the concept and design system. The ultimate goal is, of course, to increase website traffic and lead generation. In December 2019 alone, i.e. after the website relaunch, we achieved 870,000 website hits, an increase of more than half compared to the previous months.

“We wanted to develop an attractive, user-friendly and comprehensible website. More and more users are also accessing information via smartphones. The old site wasn’t designed for that”.

“The redesign is intended to strengthen the main website bundeswehr.de as a central service.”

Colonel Arne Collatz
Head of the editorial office at the German Armed Forces until the end of last year

Structured preparation of content

The previous website, almost 14 years old, was very static and could not be displayed on mobile devices without a loss of quality. To offer this urgently needed mobile use, the new portal has been implemented based on the CoreMedia content management system with a responsive design, barrier-free access and in contemporary gender-appropriate language. CoreMedia is a long-standing Aperto technology partner for content experience platforms that offer editorial interfaces and good scalability. The look of the new digital presence of the German Armed Forces is based on the new corporate design, polygon and camouflage instead of grey and white.

As part of the content strategy, in order to present the complexity of the information in a modern and user-friendly way, a large number of different modules and more than ten different page types were defined and designed. Highlights include an interactive 3D globe with mission locations, an equipment module for visualisation and to digitally experience large equipment, and separate access points to the armed forces and organisational areas. Design guidelines, i.e. design specifications for all elements, make it easier to prepare the content – in terms of a positive user experience.

Design system as a basis for product development

The combination of design guidelines, patterns and assets with corresponding components in frontend libraries and JavaScript frameworks is called a design system. However, this goes far beyond a pure style guide or pattern library. It is a way for companies to design and implement digital products to achieve faster time to market, scalability and high user adoption. Additionally, this type of design system creates increased engagement, consistency and efficiency in UI prototyping and implementation. With Carbon, IBM have been offering an open source solution for digital products and services since 2015. Carbon is used in more than 100 IBM products and has won several awards.

Website relaunch: perfect harmony of form and content

The new website portrays the German Armed Forces as a modern, transparent organisation with an important social task in our globalised world; as one of the most diverse employers in Germany and as an approachable force sustained by human beings. And all of this in a new style with modern technology: fast, accessible, accurate, interactive and conversational – a reliable source of information for thousands of users who communicate with the German Armed Forces on a daily basis, not just about the work of the German Armed Forces but primarily about German defence and security.



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