Graphic of data inputs comprising a bespoke database UI

Designing a new UI for a global non-profit's bespoke database

CHS Alliance

CHS Alliance needed to redesign and redevelop the organisation's main database user interface (UI)

The Brief

CHS Alliance asked OWA to completely redevelop and redesign its main organisational database user interface (UI). This highly bespoke system enables CHS internal teams to manage information, activities and relationships with its global member organisations and affiliates. 

The brief focused on creating a new, clean UI, where data could be quickly and intuitively accessed from across thousands of information sources. Development and testing needed to take place without affecting any functionality in the live system, ensuring operational continuity at all times for CHS users.

About CHS Alliance

CHS Alliance is a global movement of humanitarian and development organisations committed to making aid work better for people through greater accountability.

OWA has worked with CHS since 2016 across a number of development projects, including ongoing improvements to the database UI, prior to the system redesign and redevelopment. 

Screen showing CHS database login
Logo for CHS Alliance
Screen showing CHS bespoke database table

Our Approach

OWA worked closely with the CHS Alliance project team to scope all the system requirements and comprehensively map the data sources and key workflows. Based on this, we recommended building the new system in PHP – using Symfony – and also proposed carrying out some additional integration with the MailChimp platform. 

Given the complexity and spread of business-related activities handled by the system, we focused on delivering three key elements with the new build. Firstly, we sought to improve and refine the system logic across all activities and tasks to simplify this wherever practicable. Secondly, we prototyped and iterated a streamlined UI and user experience (UX) with the help of CHS users and stakeholders until these worked seamlessly together. Finally, harnessing the benefits of PHP, we focused on improving performance and data processing speed. 

The resulting gains were verified during an intensive period of user acceptance testing (UAT) across key areas handled by the system, including users, events, participants, bookings, invoices and finance records.

Screen showing CHS bespoke database dashboard
Add organisation button UI feature
Hands joined together showing CHS Alliance making aid work better

How we helped

OWA worked closely with CHS Alliance to successfully recreate the legacy database in a development environment using 'sanitised' test data, ensuring full uptime and operational continuity of the live system at all times. 


Prototyping was an essential part of scoping and designing the new database UI. This allowed us to test and refine changes to the system logic, dashboard presentations and layouts so all the relevant data would be shown in a concise and clean way, within a couple of clicks. 


Performance improvements were also mission-critical to the success of this project, due to the large amount of data held in the CHS system. We worked through each data category and enquiry type to ensure faster loading, retrieval and results display across all tasks and activities.

It’s always a pleasure to work with OWA as they deliver no matter how complex the project. Their flexible approach enables us to overcome the unknowns that every project has without the involvement of significant additional resources. A big shoutout to the whole team for their patience and excellent support.
Balint Hudecz, web and data manager, CHS Alliance
OWA team member in conversation

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