How Do You Rebuild a Website? RAINN’s Director of Technology Has the Answers.

RAINN released a new look for rainn.org, the most visited online destination for information about sexual violence. The redesign prominently features survivors of sexual violence, makes it easier to access support from the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and includes expanded educational content. RAINN’s director of technology, Jeff Senkevich, sat down with staff writer Meaghan Bresnahan to explain the ins and outs of the new site.

RAINN's director of technology Jeff Senkevich sits at a computer, answers questions about the process of rebuilding a website.
Jeff Senkevich discusses the ins and outs of redesigning rainn.org

How is this site different from the previous rainn.org?

In short, it’s way better. You’ll notice the aesthetic improvements immediately, even if you’re on the site for just a few seconds. From a technological standpoint, the biggest improvement is that it is a fully responsive site.

What is a responsive site?

On a responsive site, visitors have the ability to access content across all devices. More than 50% of traffic to rainn.org comes from mobile visitors, and we wanted to ensure that someone using an Android device, iPad, or iPhone has just as positive of an experience as someone using a desktop.

The relaunch gave us the opportunity to incorporate the most modern web technologies. We’ve upgraded to the latest version of Drupal, the software used to build the site and organize content. We also made the coding switch to CSS3 selectors from Javascript—a change that gives us the flexibility to build more engaging layouts and designs throughout the site.

Let’s talk a little bit about about security. How have you ensured that visitors to rainn.org are using a secure connection?

RAINN’s site has always used an SSL encrypted connection, the same level of security used by financial services sites. An SSL connection ensures that your when you visit a website, your connection can’t be intercepted by a third party. Sites that show the lock icon next to your browser's URL bar, or use 'https:' in their URL (as opposed to 'http:'), are considered secure.

The new site takes advantage of the latest updates in security technology, and applies these same protections to dynamic extensions from the site. For example, when you compare state laws or search for your local sexual assault service provider, these extensions of rainn.org now employ the same security restrictions as the main site.

Security is particularly important for the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (online.rainn.org). What else guided the redesign for the online chat?

Our primary goal is reducing barriers to getting help. We accomplished this in a few ways, like reducing the number of clicks that it takes to enter chat with a RAINN support specialist. Some people who turn to the Online Hotline may wish to conceal their activity online for safety reasons, so we stripped any sense of branding and used cool, muted colors to give the platform a welcoming, but generic, feel. We also adjusted the platform so that the chat opened within the same screen, rather than popping out as an additional window.

Building a one-screen platform was a key element in giving mobile users a seamless experience. Since the beginning of the year alone, we’ve seen a 13% increase in mobile traffic, bringing the total percentage of mobile Online Hotline visitors to 53%.

It seems like the redesign was a pretty comprehensive process. Where did you start?

We started with a general audit—of all our content, services, and audiences. It was clear that it was going to be a large-scale project, so we sought a web firm that could handle the size and nuances of a site like rainn.org. We landed on nclud, a full-service creative agency based in Washington, DC. They walked us through a comprehensive research phase where we spoke to survivors, donors, and lawmakers in one-on-one conversations, focus groups, and online sorting activities. The insights from this process informed the development of the site, creation of additional content, and navigation structure.

Now that the site has relaunched, what are you most looking forward to?

We’ve laid good groundwork with the new design. I think our teams are looking forward to expanding the type of content we have on the site and continuing to enhance the user experience for platforms like the Online Hotline.

Read more about RAINN’s new look.


If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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