The Planetary Society needed to overhaul their purely academic online image, highlight their shift in leadership, and deliver a user experience that cultivated a community of space enthusiasts.

During a time of significant organizational change, The Planetary Society enlisted Blackbaud Interactive to redesign their website. Led and co-founded by legendary astronomer Carl Sagan, the organization was viewed by many as an exclusively academic society. Their original website was high on information but low on engagement. ‘Too dense’ and ‘not fun’ were descriptions unearthed during initial interviews.

Enter Bill Nye the Science Guy

William “Bill” Nye (pictured above right with former astronaut John Mace Grunsfeld) is best known for hosting a wacky science show for kids during the 1990s. Upon being named Chief Executive Officer in 2010, the Science Guy quickly infused The Planetary Society with his contagious enthusiasm and fun-loving personality.

We began with a comprehensive discovery

Our user experience and design team interviewed key organization stakeholders to uncover top goals.  Stakeholders wanted to revitalize the site’s appearance and reorganize content.  Enhancing project awareness, growing their community of space fans, and providing members with a place to communicate, connect, and share content were also top priorities that emerged through the discovery process.

A comprehensive audit of The Planetary Society’s website was conducted

Content and performance assessments, as well as a review of technical specifications and web analytics were conducted.   A new site map to improve content organization was also developed.

As the structure and wireframes took shape, Blackbaud met again with Bill Nye and the The Planetary Society team to discuss the site’s facelift challenges, establish design goals, and review competing websites.
Discussions revealed two contradictory design themes:

  • Most competing space websites were dark in overall coloration, and appeared futuristic and cold. Was The Planetary Society prepared to deviate from this norm?
  • The Planetary Society viewed itself as an enthusiastic ‘science cheerleader’, rallying young and old to become engaged in space exploration.  They wanted their website’s tone to be welcoming and exciting.
  • We created two mood boards to explore the visual possibilities of both themes.

The cheerleader won by a landslide

With the visual direction approved by the The Planetary Society team and Mr. Nye, our UX/D team set about finalizing wireframes, designing pages and writing technical documentation.  Three months later we delivered a fully redesigned site.  The final result was enticing and easy to maintain.  To ensure seamless continuity we provided detailed content management system training for loading stories, blog postings, multimedia resources and project updates.

4 Planetary Soc Mood

Moodboards showing the two different visual treatments.

5 Planetary Soc Wireframe

Homepage wireframe and a photo of The Planetary Society pushing the site launch button

“As I said before…WOW! We briefly met today and both options were stunning but  #2, the science cheerleader, is the winner… We are all very excited about this new look.”

-Monica Bosserman Lopez,The Planetary Society

6 Planetary Society Card Sort

One year after blast off

The Planetary Society website data and metrics revealed:

  • Increased total online revenue 30%
  • New online members (+192%)
  • Online membership renewals (+14%)
  • Increased unique visitors to site (+33%)
  • Increased total visitors to site (+26%)
  • Increased time spent on site (+32%)
  • More pages viewed per visit (+42%)
Online revenue
increased by 30%

Organization Type

Arts & Cultural


Content Strategy
Information Architecture
User Research
Usability Testing
User Experience Design
Visual Design/Redesign