IFTF Redesign & Rebuild

An unusual challenge from a trusted client resulted in a unique development process for our client’s new website.

Iftf banner


Institute for the Future (IFTF), the world's oldest continuously running futures research and educational organization.


IFTF wanted to unveil their new brand with a new website. The current outdated site housed a huge amount of content spanning 15 years.


Rebranding was completed, but the new site and content structure was not defined. We needed design decisions, but fast, and with flexibility.

Our Role

We broke protocol and executed discovery, design and build work in parallel. Agile management supported this phased iterative process. Each set of decisions informed the next.

Special Sauce

The high level of trust between IFTF and Solspace enabled risk-taking, ensured smooth process, and fueled creativity and bold decisions. Craft CMS + agile management perfectly supported the component-based iterative approach.

How It Started

Institute for the Future wanted to rethink and rebuild their main website, IFTF.org. They had completed a rebranding process and wanted to unveil their new brand by launching a new website. The existing site was built on an outdated version of Typo 3 and contained a massive amount of content spanning 15 years. IFTF wanted a new streamlined website that would be simple and elegant, without existing information and experience silos, to better serve the main goals of their audiences.

One of IFTF’s core offerings is research and design. They are capable of producing beautiful physical pieces, like periodicals and maps. This capability was not reflected well on their current site, and the new site needed to feature this rich content.

IFTF also wanted to implement simple audience engagement tools for their primary audience of partners and existing and prospective clients for the IFTF Vantage Partner and Foresight Essentials Training programs, as well as funders, the general public, and the media.

IFTF did not want to go through a full redesign process with an external team, but Solspace couldn’t begin the new build without a new sitemap, new specifications, wireframes, mockups, and graphic assets.


What Happened Next

Solspace and the client decided to break with our project management protocol and execute the new site design and build simultaneously. And instead of conducting Discovery in advance of project planning, we incorporated Discovery into the iterative agile process too. This was unusual, but the history of the partnership between the teams made it an exciting creative opportunity.

IFTF and Solspace worked intensely on initial planning, drilling down on everything that was known about the proposed new site, and everything that was still unknown. Together, we produced a plan and a timeline, understanding that these would be loosely held. Solspace then created a sitemap with the proposed new content structure, content types, and URL structure, and added a list of required unique templates. This proposed new site organization was clear and easy to understand and organized into sections that would feel intuitive to users.

The sitemap was intended as a living document that would evolve during the design and build process, while we worked with the client to further define details like category and taxonomy structures. We adjusted our plan, our budget and our timeline based on the sitemap and jumped into the project.

Design and Creative Problem-Solving

Once the main list of required templates was finalized, we were able to create wireframes to define the key shared components and page content components of the site. Since most of the site was going to be built using a flexible page builder, we knew we’d spend a lot of time focusing on defining these components, and which attributes will be customizable by the content editors. Throughout this exploration and decision-making process, we prioritized keeping flexibility and complexity balanced.

We completed wireframes for the core sections of the site and began work on visual designs that integrated the new IFTF brand guidelines. We invested deeply in this creative and collaborative process, which resulted in designs for:

  • shared site-wide elements (header, navigation footer, etc.)
  • fixed layout pages (list pages, people pages, event pages, etc.)
  • a “kit of parts” - a sort of resource library with examples of page components that would be used to build the flexible pages (similar to Lego blocks)

Solspace was extremely thorough during the visual design stage, which positioned us to confidently begin translating visual designs into code without a lot of additional conversations. This led to the prototype stage of the build, which provided the opportunity to begin testing modern techniques and functionality for compatibility, clarity and usability. When budgeting, we included enough time to produce interface animations and transitions that would deliver a truly delightful user experience.


Third party integrations

The IFTF website incorporates a number of third-party elements that needed to be planned for and integrated into the new build. These included Salesforce, MailChimp, YouTube and Vimeo, Zoom (for webinars), and Coursera. We recommended using Solspace’s Freeform product for online surveys, as it reliably connects to Salesforce or MailChimp as needed.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The collaborative spirit continued through testing and QA, and through the launch of the new IFTF website https://www.iftf.org/. Everything came together successfully, efficiently, and without drama. All of the client’s goals had been met, and we’d had a great time partnering.

This was not a typical project in many ways, but there are some solid takeaways about how and why it succeeded.

The first takeaway is that it demonstrates how the relationships Solspace builds based on earned trust provide exponentially greater value for our clients. Value comes when open and honest communication are the defaults, and everyone can work with confidence and clarity. Value also comes from understanding our client. We can anticipate and proactively resolve issues along the way, without stopping to ask about their priorities. And value comes from trusting each other, which in this case allowed well-supported risk-taking. A truly creative environment.

Another big takeaway is that deep investment in planning produces success. In this case, Solspace and the client were equally committed to the process, and the time invested in thorough planning for both knowns and unknowns was repaid tenfold in the efficiency of execution.

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