Section 4: User-Centered Web Design

User-Centered Web Design

Unit 2, Section 4, Overview

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Video Transcript
Hi, I’m Dr. Anthony Chow. Welcome to Section 4, User-Centered Web Design.

I’m wearing a Santa hat, in recognition of Christmas, as we’re filming this very close to Christmastime. So, I wanted to celebrate the holidays. This module will walk you through the application of user-centered design and the creation of a redesigned conceptual information architecture for an actual academic department website.

Let’s begin. Let’s use an academic department website as an example. Preliminary analysis suggests we have four primary user groups: current students, prospective students, faculty/staff, and alumni and general public.

The four primary goals for the department are to assist and advise current students, market to prospective students, assist faculty and staff with relevant information, and maintain a connection with program alumni.

To understand each group, we have the following sources of information:

  1. log analysis of total pages visited and other relevant data
  2. cognitive analysis projecting information priorities
  3. direct dialog with users through interviews, focus groups, surveys, et cetera.

Remember our core UCD principles and activities per the table from my book chapter.

We need to, first, understand and specify the context of use; second, specify user and organizational requirements; third, produce more than one candidate design solution; and fourth, evaluate, propose designs against requirements.

We also need to conduct five analyses. First, goals. What are our site’s primary goals we want to achieve. Two, the user audience analysis. Who will be using the site? Three, task purpose analysis. For what purposes will they be using our site? Four, information architecture analysis. What is the proposed information architecture based on our user task matrix? And finally, five, a workflow analysis. How well can people actually use our site.

The mission for the department is to demonstrate our expertise in library and information science, by creating a highly usable digital environment that meets the needs of all major users in an effective, efficient, and satisfying fashion. This means our information and services need to be of high quality, relevant and useful and well organized and easy to use and find.

The look and feel needs to be warm, friendly, and authentic, rather than contrived. Real stories of students, faculty and alumni need to be told.

The essential challenge and constraint is an internal process for maintaining the site and the existing lack of resources in both design and development. Little time or money, in other words, to maintain the site.

The first analysis is to determine the user audience for the site. Fortunately, the department already knows its four user groups and intends on communicating with them through surveys and interviews of current students, alumni, and faculty.

The second analysis is the creation of a task-purposed checklist for each user. We need to create a user task matrix, or what I typically refer to as a feature checklist. Let’s take a look at one. Here is a user task matrix created for the academic department’s four user groups. In addition, you will see that all four of the department’s primary goals are also checked off. This preliminary matrix, however, needs to be vetted before an information architecture map is designed.

The next step is an information architecture analysis. Using a color code, five main categories have been created. And as you can see, the diagram here shows each of these categories successfully maps to all of the primary information needs of current students, which is by far the primary user group of an academic department.

The five main categories are:

  • Courses and Programs
  • About Us
  • People
  • Careers
  • Resources

Comparing the five major categories with the current website’s log files also suggests, again, that they’re accurate and well aligned with the needs of current users of the site. You can see, for example, that the Admission’s page is the most visited area of the site, followed closely by Course Information and Academic Programs. In fifth place is “About Us.”

From this, we can create a preliminary web map of our site’s information architecture. As you can see here, each of the five main categories represent a main navigation area of our proposed site. In addition, we have created a proposed list of quick links that can be provided on the home page. This allows access to the site’s most used pages.

Again, as you can see, a comparison with the site’s log files again suggests that there is a close alignment with what is being proposed and actual page usage on the site. This should allow for more efficient access to these pages. A preliminary wire frame or specification document of what a home page might look like, with the revised list of quick links, can be seen here.

Well, that’s it for Section 4. Thank you for joining me, and we have much more to do in Units 3, 4, and 5. Please be sure to do the five review questions, check out the section readings, participate in the cohort discussions, and do the hands on activity. I will see you again soon. Cheers.