Picture of a government city council

Yarra City Council

The City of Yarra’s website is a critical resource for its extensive residents, serving different purposes to a wide range of demographics. The City of Yarra was looking to redevelop its website so that it was more intuitive for users, and better geared to the emerging digital trends and technologies impacting local government.

The City of Yarra is a local government area (LGA) in the inner eastern and northern suburbs of Melbourne, with a population of 91,543 residents. Some of Melbourne’s most iconic suburbs belong to the City of Yarra, including Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Carlton North.

The City of Yarra’s website is a critical resource for its extensive residents, serving different purposes to a wide range of demographics. The City of Yarra was looking to redevelop its website so that it was more intuitive for users, and better geared to the emerging digital trends and technologies impacting local government.

The challenge

The ultimate goal that the City of Yarra had when engaging Luminary was re-platforming, and they wanted to understand whether a multi-site or single-site approach would better serve the needs of their users. The existing systems architecture for the City of Yarra was not serving the needs of either residents or government resources. There were more than 130 systems that were linked to the website, and the content was disorganised and bloated. Task completion on the website was poor and there were data silos being created which meant that when information changed, these changes were having to be amended on several systems by several content editors. There was also no governance set up internally to say who should be an editor or a process to dictate that workflow, and the City of Yarra required consulting on what their team structure and approach should be.

The City of Yarra engaged Luminary to undertake a discovery exercise to better understand the needs of both end users of the site, and the City of Yarra staff to make an informed recommendation on a multi-site strategy or single-site strategy. 

Picture of the Yarra City Council website and interfaces

What we did

Luminary was asked as experts to give a recommendation as to whether the City of Yarra should offer four independent sites or one so that they can approach the internal teams and say that this has been recommended. Through discovery, governance and technical consultation, Luminary was able to put forward a website strategy for the City of Yarra. The design and build component of the project was not being taken on by Luminary, as they required an independent party, and so Luminary conducted the work that would inform the IA, navigation, design and user interface.

Picture of the Yarra City Council stakeholders

Single or Multi-site?

The City of Yarra’s website was broken into four sites; the council, leisure, library and arts. All of which ran as their own branded sub-sites, under four domains and powered by individual, siloed teams. The City of Yarra wanted Luminary to explore whether a single-site or multi-site approach was the best way to go, and what kind of technology and strategy was required to implement this. The City of Yarra was looking to understand how it could manage that change improve its use of digital, and better service itself to its customers. When we lined up how people search for things and the Analytics findings, our team did not see any justification for four sites. Here’s how we got there.

Icons depicting the Yarra City Council scope of work, including a cube, a government building and an eye

Auditing issues

The approach was to interview all stakeholders across the organisation and see what the pain points were. SEO audits and content reviews were conducted, and this is where PDFs and orphan pages were identified that contained rich information that people were looking for but it was not findable. There was also duplicate content being shared across different sites, with Arts and Library containing similar content which created confusion and poor SEO results. Ultimately, all issues were a symptom of the City of Yarra’s website being split into four separate entities, as well as the website itself being end of life.

Identifying and mapping user needs

The City of Yarra team told Luminary who their priority audiences (customers) were for digital, and the UZ team then went out to recruit these audiences for a workshop to determine how Yarra should be positioning its content. By using SEO and analytics to determine what the most engaged 100 pages on the current site (balanced among the four groups) were, we put each page on a card for the workshop for the 16 workshop participants who were the City of Yarra residents and grouped these pages into labels. Given the volume of services and uses that the government website had to cater to, it was critical that Luminary spoke to the diverse groups of users so that the scope of the development could be determined. 

The same workshop was conducted with the City of Yarra staff and the team were encouraged to make grouping decisions based on the content alone, rather than grouping based on the long-standing view of who they are and how the current website functions. Often when Luminary conducts these workshops, the customer has a different card sorting structure to a business, but the City of Yarra and their customer were aligned on their content grouping expectations. When bringing both workshop's results together we determined what the themes were, where customers expect to find content, and what these groupings should be called. 

Disconnected communications

This work identified 45 systems (33 interconnected and 12 disconnected) that require representation through the function of the website. The stakeholders belonged to the following groups: leisure, communications, family/children’s services, IS/FM systems, customer services, youth services, revenue services, library, aged care and disability, compliance/parking, arts and culture, waste management, statutory planning, building services, economic development, executive teams, councillors, governance and corporate planning. With the decision made to have a single site, Luminary worked with the City of Yarra to understand that just because there were not four different URLs, it did not mean that you could not position them as four brands on the website. 

Luminary presented findings from four ‘competitor’ city council websites to add context and highlight how the demographics within the City of Yarra could be better serviced. While each of these competitors was imperfect in their offering, they were more advanced in terms of personalisation, participation, automation and a once-only policy.


With the workshops complete and the recommendation of one site put forward, Luminary consultation on how that would work. Specifically, what roles would the City of Yarra need to satisfy this website structure and what governance framework would be required to determine how teams make decisions? There were sessions held with each of the four brands (council, libraries, arts and leisure), and some were straightforward and others required deeper explanation as to how we had arrived at these recommendations. By using different colours for each of the brands (Leisure is purple, Libraries is green, etc), each brand could own its dedicated space on the website. 

Picture of a virtual client meeting with Yarra City Council and Luminary team members

Re-platforming, data and content

Luminary’s Technical Director managed the technical requirements of the project. By interviewing the City of Yarra’s IT team, we were able to understand their platform capabilities and managing services so that they chose a solution that would integrate with their way of business. Four possible CMS options were recommended to Yarra, including an open-source option (common for government websites), a DXP option and a headless CMS option. Each CMS came with benefits and considerations based on the City of Yarra’s internal IT insights, without making an explicit recommendation of which one to choose. 

Luminary’s discovery collated the problems into three themes: platforms, data and content. With multiple platforms and technologies present, the consistency of the user experience was continuously undermined. From a data standpoint, there was no single and central source of truth for customers, and there was a data integrity risk caused by manual processes used to support communications. Finally, the departmental silos with variable digital and communication expertise hindered the development of content best practice approaches.

"Luminary is a team of highly talented subject matter experts. Their approach is very customer focussed and they made us feel very comfortable and confident that we could achieve the desired outcome from our consultations with them."
- Angela Collie, Business Liaison Officer, City of Yarra

Core personas

The project scope did not include in-depth interviews to form personas, so the team worked with data to determine who the high website users were. We then do a workshop to determine what they are going to do, what's important to them and the behavioural decisions and tasks they are trying to complete. This was done to recruit for the IA workshops but it was also a great jumping-off point for Yarra to further explore these personas and take these profiles to a recruiter.

We uncovered core personas based on the data and put forward recommendations on what these five key digital audience groups required of the council website and how best to serve these user stories. Bringing the four brands together to complete the persona workshop and IA workshop was rewarding, as the collaborative nature of the session was something that the groups had not completed before. Stepping outside of their day-to-day tasks and looking at the website as something for the customer was very impactful.

Picture of the Yarra City Council stakeholders

The result

Through discovery, governance and technical consultation, the City of Yarra was able to identify that a single-site strategy would best serve its customers. They also have recommendations on how to structure teams in future that would result in more effective content navigation. When asked to disregard what they knew about the current website their four sub-site priorities to re-order content in a way that was logical and user-friendly, the City of Yarra was well aligned with their customers on how that website should be structured.

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