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  • Davin Hutchins

Planet 4: Greenpeace’s WordPress Based CMS Goes Live

It’s really great to see a global organization like Greenpeace push itself to adopt best-in-class, open source technology to adapt to the changing appetites and gnat-like attention spans of audiences in the modern age. People have lots of avenues to channel their desire to preserve the natural world and lots of great non-profit organizations to choose from to save this planet. I wrote in an earlier post about my role in helping Greenpeace arrive at the wise decision to embrace the WordPress CMS after careful evaluating of other solutions including Drupal. It took the better part of a year but the Planet 4 open source CMS is now a tangible product for the world to see.


I had the good fortune of being the only global campaign strategist to sit on the Steering Committee of the Planet 4 project for more than a year, where about a dozen of us from our Engagement and IT departments helped steer the process of empowering a small internal team of talented project managers, designers and developers – the Planet 4 team – to deliver a nimble prototype that could be replicated by multiple offices.

The main goal of the P4 project was to push Greenpeace to have a web ecosystem that was more than just a typical non-profit brochure site that advertised our good deeds. We wanted a sticky site that gave hard-core supporters and casual visitors the ability to engage in activities great and small – from reading Greenpeace’s scientific reports, to sharing factoids to signing up to support major campaigns on preserving the Antarctic, reducing single use plastic or saving the Amazon reef.


We took the unusual step of working on the site out in the open involving hundreds of volunteers and staff to shape the new site while pouring over analytics of our legacy Planet 3 proprietary CMS to see how people actually behave. To document our journey, we published countless posts on the Planet 4 Medium channel documenting the Discovery, Concept, Design, and Development phases and what we’ve learned along the way.


It was clear that very few people land on our home page and drill down through lots of content. People are in and out, reading and sharing what they want. More and more discovery happens on social media on a single page – or “back door entry way” to the site and discovery that entry way through social channels like Facebook and Twitter more and more.


One convention that came out of the design phase of the project was to represent content pages as a series of Action Tiles that simply and succinctly explained an issue and pointed people toward sensible immediate actions. We avoided using complicated directory trees or menus and gave users the options to use clickable hashtags to navigate intuitively throughout the site. (The Action Tiles seemed like such a good idea, we actually borrowed it for our Less Is More campaign site as Action Cards to get people to change their dietary predilections toward meat to safeguard the planet. Turns out interactive Action pages are among the most highest visited and shared.)





We also wanted to ensure that the design was inviting, colorful, and indeed, hopeful. So our color scheme sought to use bright color palettes with images of an almost idealized future, using artful illustrations to convey contextual backgrounds about an issue. In addition, we committed to a “mobile first” design approach so the site looks elegant on tablet, laptop, desktop and smartphone screens.


In terms of content strategy, we knew that we needed to get users to do three things:


Learn: The audience needs context about why something is important

Do: The audience needs guidance on what to do about itShare: The audience needs to tell other people about it if we want to win


So the site has two primary content types for people – Act and Explore. Explore pages give people the fundamentals on issues we’re passionate about in zen-like simplicity. Act gives people an entry way into greater commitment to the cause. We decide to put people at the center of Planet 4 storytelling and show every day people are empowered. There are millions of people with the same goals willing to work hard for noble aims. We needed to people know what actions they can take in their own lives to support this work and protect our planet.


In January 2018, the prototype went live on the Greenpeace International global English site as a proof of concept and now comes the herculean task of rolling this out to the several dozen offices worldwide who want a CMS that reflects the design sensibilities of the future and delivers content and engagement pathways in a mobile era. Greenpeace Greece has already taken the plunge and we can’t wait to see which offices adopt and modify Planet 4 with specialty customizations that makes the whole project and community event stronger