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Understanding, developing and caring for

When building the new website for Toitū Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand), their purpose of 'understanding, developing and caring for whenua, moana and arawai' was a reference point we came back to time and time again.

Toitū Te Whenua (LINZ) is the government's lead agency for property and location information about land, sea, and more. Their website provides detailed information, resources, and guidance to a wide range of users who work and navigate in those areas.

The outdated and overcrowded Drupal 7 website no longer reflected the values outlined in LINZ's purpose statement, so Sparks Interactive had this in mind throughout the rebuild project.

Understanding users and LINZ's identity

The project kicked off in July 2021 with a thorough discovery phase - with both the LINZ and Sparks Interactive teams bringing their knowledge and experience to the table.

LINZ already had some solid user research to help inform requirements for the new website, and their UX designer had begun developing an information architecture (IA) that was based around this understanding of LINZ's customers. Paired with Sparks' experience building IAs and taxonomies, a website structure was formed that would provide users with a smooth journey through the website.

Existing brand guidelines provided a starting point for the design of the website, but a new art direction and more suitable imagery and Māori motifs were needed to better represent LINZ's identity. 

Screenshot of guidance section on LINZ website

Guidance section on the LINZ website -

Aerial images of New Zealand's landscapes were a good fit for LINZ's role as custodians of the land, sea and waterways, while also celebrating the value of its mapping and data products. Māori motifs were used for community-based pages, such as the contact us, about us, and consultations pages.

Developing with Sector

An important part of the discovery process was holding workshops to review each of the content types on the existing Drupal 7 website. This helped us understand how they were used and how they could fit in with Sector's content types.

LINZ and Sparks agreed that the custom functionality of the old website should be simplified where possible and fit into Sector's modular approach to Drupal. Where this wasn't possible, more complex custom functionality was decoupled.

Screenshot of LINZ Charts website

Charts website -

Something else that was decoupled was - on the existing website this was originally a section dedicated to mariners and the charts they need to navigate safely. Realising that this was a specific use case for a specific audience, it was decided that Charts would be best suited as a standalone website.

Caring for the website and its users

Accessibility was a cornerstone of this project, with both Sparks and LINZ passionate about delivering websites that are accessible and easy for everyone to use. Both parties did their own accessibility testing, and external accessibility experts also reviewed the website - finding that the mapping solution was the best they had reviewed.

Screenshot of maps solution on LINZ Charts website

Mapping solution on LINZ Charts website -

Feedback on the old site was that it was unintuitive, frustrating, unhelpful, and dated. Customers are now saying that is intuitive, easy to use, logical, and modern.

LINZ user research

Overall, the new website has transformed the experience for users - and it's not just customers who now have a vastly improved experience. Website editors have found the editing process has been streamlined and they feel empowered to build and edit content as they wish. For example, editors can now easily tag Māori language content, build accessible tables, and set up web maps for place name consultations.

Sparks and LINZ are committed to continuing this partnership of understanding, developing, and caring for their websites, so they can continue to grow and adapt to the needs of users.

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Find out more in our Sector 10 roadmap.

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