Product design and development of a new website for a higher-ed Education Department
User research, information architecture, interface wireframes, website, and presentation
8 week span
This project was an in-house cross-departmental collaborative design effort led by myself for the four-fold purpose of improving communication and interactivity between administration and faculty, between faculty within the department, between faculty and students currently enrolled in Education programs, and between the department and prospective students. This resulted in a website design with a focused and intentional funnel for several user groups and driven by the findings of original research of actual users.
The Design Problem
The design problem for which this website would present a solution is multifaceted, but the website would present a single tool targeting several kinds of users with the same solution—improved communication and access to user-group-specific resources to unify the members of the department in whatever capacity they exist. This website will provide a high-level overview of the structure of the program. Secondly, the Education Department is largely comprised of part-time instructors, with which communication in the traditional methods, such as meetings and brainstorming sessions soliciting their feedback, would be impractical given their schedule and limited availability. Thirdly, students enrolled in Education Department programs are highly compartmentalized by age group and by teaching field, which makes communication among them difficult and discourages interaction on topics common to all fields, such as teaching methods or use of technology in the classroom. Fourthly, because of the complexity and customizability of the programs, prospective students experience difficulty understanding the structure and potential of the programs and concentrations. This project demonstrates how a website targeting several kinds of users with different information and interactive elements could solve the underlying issues.
Research was conducted in three groups of users—administration, faculty, and currently enrolled students to provide a data-driven framework and approach to the information architecture and interface design needed to accomplish the goal of improving communication across all areas of the department. Surveys, content analyses, card sorts, and usability studies were conducted to provide the data for the research component.
I worked with the Education Department leadership to select industry standard user experience questions, arrange them into a digital form to collect the data, and utilize built in analytics tools to visualize the research upon which to base conclusions. The survey resulted in eight participants. The questions were limited to five to keep the survey as easy to complete in one sitting as possible. The questions on the survey included the following: “If you were to review the Education section of the college website, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate it? How easy is the college website (in general) to use?” “What are 3-5 adjectives that should describe a prospective student’s experience in using the Education section of the college website.” “Brainstorm 3-5 items that you feel would be beneficial to include on the Education section of the college website.” “How would you describe the Education Program in a sentence?” “Any extra thoughts for general improvement of our website would be appreciated. (response optional).”
Fig. 1. Overall website satisfaction rating shows positive reaction by faculty.
Fig. 2. Education Department area of website shows lower average in ratings when compared against the institution’s website at large.
Low-fidelity Wireframes and Sitemap
The navigation and structure of the website are designed to pull the user through the pages ultimately toward starting the application process. The wireframes demonstrate the proposed layout design for the majority of the pages. The navigational design and overall flow of the website are intended to advance the user through the pieces of information in which he is interested and ultimately toward the call to action—summiting an application. The content incorporates results of the research and the conclusions made previously and presents ease of access for the user.
Color Scheme and Branding
In 2015, I had the privilege of designing the branding, logo, seal, color scheme, and governing style guide for West Coast Baptist College. I have decided that adopting the college color scheme for the Education website would be in the best interest of the institution’s brand integrity and overall consistency as a prospective student navigates between the Education site and the main site. However, I redesigned the institutional seal slightly into one specific for the Education Department that can be displayed on the Education website to uniquely identify the department
and isolate it from the larger college website. This new seal borrows many of the elements of the institutional seal, but places a greater focus on learning through the symbolism of the open book, a figure of knowledge and learning and education as a whole. Other more cliche ideas which were abandoned include an apple, pillar, and open-palm hand. The ideal balance would be a visual identity that was assuredly West Coast in style and association, but unique in focus and which creates a natural divide showing a unique department—a part within a whole.
The home page is the key to capturing in the viewers attention, most effectively in under just a few seconds. The home page is designed toward the broadest audience, with links to more specific information targeting particular groups of users. All of the critical content identified in the research above was included or at least represented on the home page for the highest potential user engagement across segments.