DesignLights Consortium (DLC) is not your typical company. This non-profit organization’s mission is to drive efficient lighting by defining quality, facilitating thought leadership, and delivering tools and resources to the lighting market through open dialogue and collaboration. Part of that mission involves accelerating the widespread adoption of high-performing commercial lighting solutions. DLC accomplishes this through technical requirements (or specifications) that must be met to be listed on the website. The qualified product list (QPL) hosts more than 271,000 different solid-state lighting products from more than 1,500 manufacturers. The website features the world’s largest QPL of high-performing LED lighting products and the first and only QPL for networked lighting control systems. Tens of thousands of users in the United States, China, Canada, and even some in Europe rely on the information on DLC’s website.
The QPL is the core platform for the DLC and the designlights.org website is the key service the DLC provides its users. “The website is the form and the QPL is the function”, explains Tina Halfpenny, DLC’s Executive Director. “The majority of our interactions and the service we provide is through our website, its the access point to our resources. “
"We were confident that the team would build a website that appropriately reflected DLC while enabling and facilitating the kind of functionality we needed."
And when the website is frequently down, or difficult to use, everything comes to a screeching halt. In 2016, DLC found itself at a crossroads. “We had a very fragile framework with our legacy system,” Halfpenny continues. “The website was constantly crashing because so many of our users were trying to access, search, and download data from our QPL at the same time. We were basically just patching problems and breathing air into the site every day. On top of that, navigation was pretty opaque – there was no search bar, for example, so it was hard for users to get to the information they really wanted.”
Clearly, an overhaul was in order. Halfpenny put out an RFP and recognizing the flexibility of the Slatwall Commerce platform, chose to work with ten24. In June of 2016, work began on a brand-new website. “We felt that ten24 really understood the highly technical nature of our information,” she comments. “We were confident that the team would build a website that appropriately reflected DLC while enabling and facilitating the kind of functionality we needed.”
As David Crouch, president of ten24, explains, the DLC project was a substantial undertaking. “The sheer volume of the products in the QPL alone meant that we needed to build in robust searching, filtering, and reporting functionality,” he says. “But it was also clear that DLC needed a timely and efficient way to continuously update the QPL as more products are added to it.” For this reason, the ten24 team employed a two-phase approach to its work with DLC.
The first phase began, as it typically does for a brand-new client, with an exhaustive engineering process. The result of this work was a set of 30-40 detailed wireframes which specified exactly what kinds of information would be in the website and where it would be found. (Once the wireframes were completed and approved, the design portion of the website was handed off to a third party.)
As the ten24 team tackled this project, it had to consider how users would interact with the website. This was no straightforward task: Some users are DLC members, while others are not. Manufacturers like General Electric, for example, use the website to complete an application for membership in DLC. Once a manufacturer’s application is completed and approved, the manufacturer then submits all of its products and their laboratory tested performance results to the DLC. These submissions, once they are reviewed and accepted by DLC, are what constitute the QPL. Invoice generation for product applications and the verification/approval process are all managed through Slatwall.
Membership in the DLC and inclusion in its encyclopedic QPL is not just a nice-to-have for manufacturers. As Crouch points out, “If you’re not on the list, you’re not going to get the purchase orders when commercial contractors come looking to buy for their construction projects.” And that brings us to the other users of the website – all of the people and entities who want access to the information in the QPL. Let’s say you’re a contractor who’s working on a building project that has to be green and meet energy efficiency lighting standards for your state or city. One of the first places you’ll go is the DLC website, where you can search its QPL for all of the products that meet your project’s specifications.
Given DLC’s enormous and ever-growing dataset, the ten24 team wanted to make sure that the search capabilities on the new website were as robust as possible. To that end, it created 10 different complex filtering options, giving users the ability to drill down to the information that’s most useful for their requirements. Customized viewing and sorting options allow users to select from more than 50 different data points, and a comparison engine makes it easy to evaluate and compare different manufacturers’ projects to each other in a meaningful way. Users can save the results of their detailed searches right on the DLC website and come back to them later, share them using a unique link, or opt to receive an email link that lets users download their searches in an Excel file.
As part of the first phase of the DLC project, ten24 also built a content management system (CMS) into the new website. This enables DLC to add news, special events, announcements, a blog, frequently asked questions, and other useful information to the site as the business needs to.
As soon as phase one went live in mid December, the ten24 team immediately turned to phase two of the project – building an application management portal for DLC’s entire product verification lifecycle. Because commercial lighting manufacturers are constantly developing and releasing new products, the QPL is not a static list; it changes and grows with the addition of each new product that its members release. Verifying and adding those products to the QPL as quickly as possible is a key priority.
By February 2017, phase two was complete. The portal was up and running, making the entire process simpler, but more integrated, and more transparent for manufacturers, application reviewers and DLC business managers. Now, whenever manufacturers want to submit their new product releases to DLC for approval and inclusion in the QPL, they simply log in to the portal and upload an Excel file to DLC that contains all of the new products’ data for the QPL search. Manufacturers can also include up to 12 unique documents to support all of that data in their Excel files. On the other end, DLC can log in to the portal, see all of the new submissions, access the supporting documents, and email any questions to the manufacturer. Once the new product submissions are approved, they automatically appear in the QPL and are immediately searchable.
According to Halfpenny, DLC’s relationship with ten24 is already paying dividends. “From a user standpoint, the most obvious and immediate benefit is finally having a website that doesn’t crash anymore,” she says. “Access to data is also much more streamlined and intuitive.”
But that’s just the beginning. With the new website, users must sign in and create an account if they want to save, share, or download the results of their QPL searches. This means sharing their contact information with DLC. “That’s a big bonus for us, because it helps us better understand who our users are and gives us more insights into their needs,” explains Halfpenny. “So now, when we reach out to our stakeholder groups, we can do a much better job of differentiating how we communicate. That’s huge.”
The addition of a CMS to the new website has also been well received. “Now we have the ability to post all kinds of information immediately and share it with our users,” Halfpenny comments. For example, DLC offers a variety of highly technical webinars; using the CMS, Halfpenny and her team can share all of the details of those events with anyone who visits the website.
"ten24 made it so easy for us to rebuild what we wanted with a new website"
“ten24 made it so easy for us to rebuild what we wanted with a new website,” observes Halfpenny. “Our goal was to create something that would facilitate communication between us and our users. We’re very happy with the results.”