Code and Theory Overhauls Commonwealth Fund

The Commonwealth Fund (CMWF) is getting a makeover. The effort to modernize and streamline the digital healthcare platform’s gigantic information-architecture will amplify its mission. The organization supports independent research to promote a better and more equitable healthcare system — particularly for those without resources.

The foundation spent the first half of 2020 doing an extensive site audit with another agency partner before teaming with Code and Theory (C&T) to ensure all content is findable and scalable as CMWF prepares for the post-pandemic world.

“The CMWF has been around for 100 years; its site has been active for over 15 years,”  says Matt Chmiel, associate creative strategy director, C&T. “It has a huge archive of exclusive and extremely valuable research data to offer.”



One key task was simple organization. C&T’s research discovered the Fund’s data was grouped in a “sprawling taxonomic” framework that was inhibiting connections and order. “It was extensive and essentially flat,” says Chmiel. “This means that there was no natural hierarchy.”

This “common issue” resulted after CMWF spent more than a decade developing content as the website grew. It added more products and features, but neglected to properly connect relevant information. For instance, there were duplicated tags — "medical bills" and "medical bills and debt" and "healthcare spending" — all blended together. “None of those terms fit inside a wider pillar of coverage,” he says.

Now, the agency regrouped this information for easier navigation. “These terms were able to capture the specific angle of research they represent and fit them inside the 'cost and spending' topic of the 'health-care reform' pillar,” says Chmiel.

C&T also designed a data-driven approach to find solutions to create an easier structure and hierarchy for the CMWF’s key audiences, including policy makers, legislators and researchers, as well as media and the educated public.

Next, it dug into the weeds, says Chmiel. “Nestled in that archive are a number of bespoke features that deserved more attention to the audience,” he says. For example, CMWF has maintained “excellent score cards,” in which different countries deliver health care on different topics. These pages were organized in various layouts that had to be accommodated in the new system. Each of their constituent parts needed to fit within the new information architecture.

“Every time we thought we captured all of the exceptions to the system, we discovered a new corner of the site that deserved more design attention,” he adds. The firm then developed a new information-architecture to deliver accurate search results and relevant recommendations.

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