Case Study:

September 1, 2019

In 2018, the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) contracted SM Hawaii to create a communications strategy to prevent drowning and other serious injury from occurring at Hawaii beaches. In April 2019, DOH officially launched the culmination of our work with the new Ocean Safety Website

The Need:

DOH initially approached SM Hawaii to create a communications campaign about general beach safety and snorkeling safety to reduce drowning and other injuries. According to DOH, drowning continues to be one of the main causes of death in Hawaii, and ocean drowning is by far the leading cause of death for visitors to Hawaii.1

Methods, Findings and Solutions:

Through its initial market analysis, SM Hawaii determined that while there was some information available on ocean and beach safety specific to Hawaii, it was fractured among many commercial, non-commercial and government-run websites. There was no central digital hub that contained exhaustive information about the dangers and safety protocols specific to Hawaii’s waters.

SM Hawaii conducted a complete review of available best practices in preventing ocean injury from sources in Hawaii, across the nation and around the world. Working with existing research, SM Hawaii created a communications strategy that included creating a comprehensive website that would serve as a resource of information for ocean and beach safety. This new website would pull together these best-practice recommendations and present them in a user-friendly way, enabling people to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches safely and responsibly, therefore reducing drowning and serious injury.

Information featured on the website would include how to understand the meaning ocean safety warning signs, the importance of going to a lifeguarded beach, information on how to prepare for and participate in snorkeling and other ocean activities safely, and a tool to help beachgoers assess their own physical abilities and limitations. contains a comprehensive statewide list of lifeguarded beaches and lifeguard schedules.

To establish the target audience, we examined Hawaii data on the characteristics of drowning and injury victims collected over the past decade. Research showed that west-bound visitors to Hawaii had the highest incidence of drowning and injury while participating in ocean-related activities, and our communications plan and website content were developed with this audience in mind.

One of the graphics created for the campaign’s digital promotion

In addition to creating the communications strategy, SM Hawaii researched and selected campaign titles and website URLs, collected stakeholder feedback, created wireframe templates and functionality schemes, developed content, created style guides, designed the graphical elements, and conducted usability testing.


Our original wireframe design vs. the final layout

The end product,, boasts the most wide-reaching set informational safety content for beaches in the State of Hawaii ever presented on a digital platform.

Evaluation & Results:

For evaluation purposes, user feedback was implemented into the functionality of the website to provide real-world usability results.  The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, with a vast majority of survey respondents finding the website visually appealing, easy to understand, useful and trustworthy.

Since the website was officially launched in April 2019, it has already received thousands of unique visitors.  Currently, its current bounce rates are lower and session durations longer than industry averages for websites of this type.

Knowing that DOH would be responsible for post-launch updates, the website was designed to be easily updated and tracked. DOH plans to continue updating the site as new safety information becomes available, and will track usability results and website analytics going forward.


1 Galanis, D. (2015, August 7). Water Safety and Drownings in Hawaii 2015 Presentation. Retrieved April 26, 2019, from Hawaii Sate Department of Health, EMS and Injury Prevention Branch.