Our project encompassed a five week redesign of the Eric Carle Museum website. In redesigning the website, our team found an opportunity to rearrange their content into a portal for educators to use.
The Eric Carle Museum is a leading advocate for using visual literacy in their educational pedagogy. Their mission is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. As a world class museum, they get a lot of visitors from around the globe, and people look to them as a leader in promoting visual literacy.
The Eric Carle Museum has tasked us with a redesign of their current website.
The main goal of this project is to execute a website refresh while designing towards a certain user group.
The first thing we did was initiate a content audit and heuristic evaluation of the current website. We did this to fully understand what content exists within the website, and also to group things that are related. We found that a lot of the content is scattered throughout the website. There are also a lot of menu items that had content that was out of place.
I thought that the website was poorly organized at first glance. A lot of the menu items are structured vertically with not a lot of hierarchy. There are also a lot of content that do not fit within the categories they were placed in.
When we spoke to the Carle’s stakeholders, we wanted to know what is the main goal of the redesign?
“the website needs to serve visitors who may never visit our physical location” - Andrea, Stakeholder
I did domain research on trends in the museum space to see how they are engaging their users with their websites. I found that due to technology and the widespread use of the internet, museums are starting to put their entire collections and content online, allowing users to view the content online. I found that the Carle has great content and organizing it based on user’s feedback will make the museum better engage with their users.
The client provided us with users to interview: We spoke to nine educators/librarians during our research phase. In our user interviews, we gathered three main insights regarding their methods in creating lesson plans. We also asked the users to detail the steps they take in creating their lesson plans.
These are the steps our users most often take to find content to supplement their lesson plans.
Finding resources is time consuming because of the amount of steps required to find reputable sources.
"When I'm stuck, I usually go to my local library... I'll put 12 books on hold that look like might work and then bring them home and spend time with them."
- Deb, educator
There is also user frustration when it comes to combing through the content. Oftentimes, free resources are not reputable, causing users to pay for templates or create their own.
" I use pinterest a lot to get lesson ideas. It doesn't seem credible, that's why I use a lot of different resources to make it my own."
- Jade, Educator
Finally, there is the need to connect content from lesson plans to common core standards.
"If there were a way to search by art style or book story theme, that would be really helpful."
- Deb, Educator
How might we:
• Make it easier for educators to find reputable content on the internet
• Keep the Carle's users engaged with the website
• Tie the content together so it's easier to create lesson plans
We created a persona to synthesize the goals and frustrations of the users we interviewed.
Shannon is a user of the Eric Carle Museum, we created a Journey map to visualize her current journey using the website, as well as to find any opportunities along the way.
I based this journey map on my experience of using the Eric Carle website and trying to accomplish the same educator goal detailed earlier in the case study.
We found opportunities in including the hierarchy of the website, as well as combining a lot of the website content into one top navigation item. Since the Carle is an authority in this space, there is initiative and trust from the users to engage with the website.
Based on trends in the museum domain, and based on our user preferences, we created these design principles to guide our project.
Affinity mapping session. We synthesized all of our user interview findings into a diagram to start the ideation process.
We organized all of the website content using a card sort and affinity mapping. Our results combined a lot of the top navigation items relating to education into one simple menu set. Previously the Carle is using their blog to do creative art projects. We saw this as the opportunity to concept around. A lot of our concept revolved around unifying a lot of this content into one place on the top navigation.I created two concepts based around unifying the content of the website.
Education Resource - A resource for educators to supplement their classroom with Eric Carle Museum Digital content
This concept combines a lot of the existing digital content, and puts them into a portal. The portal includes worksheets, activities, and videos.
Book Database - A virtual repository that aids in finding relevant books used as a supplement in advancing student’s visual literacy
The concept is similar to the portal concept, instead, it combines the book lists and the shop to link back to activities and worksheets. The main concept I wanted to test here is the ability to get through related content from different pages.
With both concepts revolving around content organization, we needed to have a fully robust filtering system. Our filters revolved around grade level and topic. Since the Carle makes a lot of this content already in their blog posts, we easily integrated them into the education menu to help educators and librarians. With these activities and worksheets, I found it valuable to include connection to content areas as well as to common core standards.
In refining our concepts, we wanted to make sure that our solution satisfied a few key areas:
• Ease of finding content.
• Finding accurate content through the filters
• Connecting book to activities and worksheets
The educator’s portal lives within the education tab. Both content databases are separated because testing showed that books and activities required different filter types to be most effective.
From each individual book page, the users can access ECM content related to the book. This content ranges from activities and worksheets, to videos and art projects. The database for all activities could be found on a separate menu in the education tab.
The content present on this page is a collection of everything that the Carle has in their education, exhibits and blog posts. We reorganized all of the content into this hub for easier access and engagement for the users.
Our prototypes use a grid layout with big hero images for each piece of content. We used this style of showing information because it shows the front of each book with the opportunity to catch the user's eye.
Our team did a whole content reorganization based on our users needs. We also did a refresh of the website visuals and got it up to speed with today’s conventions. We used a lot of big hero images and content hierarchy that was not visible from the previous version of the website.
The phrasing and ordering of the top nav was also tested during usability testing. Our users responded better to these phrases in the education menu.
The main thing that we needed to get correctly in making the prototype is the filters. Both of our prototypes need a robust and correct filtering system to allow our users to get to the best results they are looking for.
We used type, grade, theme and subject for the book list filter options. These are all based on the need of our users to be broad and narrow at the same time. Our users felt that this was enough to be able to pinpoint searches.
Explore more filter options - We did a couple of rounds of testing for the filter options, but further testing is needed to really nail it down. One of the things that may be considered is highlighting art style as part of the art filters.
Tagging the content - Since we are reorganizing and restructuring the website, some sort of tagging content will be required.
Explore Exhibits - Although we focused on the book and activity sections, I felt that there was a lot of potential in the exhibits section of the website. There is an opportunity to tie book to exhibit to activity.
The Eric Carle Museum website redesign project taught me a lot in honing my design process. I definitely jumped to conclusions during the synthesis phase and tried to execute a traditional website refresh. I was thinking of making more visuals and cleaning up hierarchy. I learned to never have solutions for problems that don’t exist. I thought that the final product is more targeted towards a real user frustration and not just executing a simple website refresh. The filtering system we developed is robust and our users found it very useful. In the restructuring of the website, we have eliminated a lot of top navigation items, making it easier for the users to find things they are looking for. I enjoyed contributing user research and information architecture to the project. If I had time to revisit the project, I would have tried to look into changing the layout of the top nav. I thought we did a good job of consolidating, but I felt like there were some things that still felt out of place from the top nav. This project taught me that design is not a linear process, and helped me grow more as a designer.
Interested in hearing more? Reach out to me and I'd love to talk through the rest of our process!