Stephanie Walker

User Experience Design and Accessibility

User Research for the Digital Scholarship Lab Website

Digital Scholarship Lab final prototype displayed inside a Mac Laptop
Homepage of the Redesigned DSL Website Prototype

Quick Summary

For this project, a team consisting of myself and three other colleagues conducting User Experience Research for the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) located at the Michigan State University Library. The semester-long research project consisted of seven different phases, including User interviews, creating User Personas, Heuristic and Competitive analysis, Card Sorting, and User Testing. At the end of the project, we developed our findings into a re-designed prototype and then presented our research-based suggestions to the stakeholders of the DSL for potential implementation to their website.  All of the phases are detailed below. 

My Role

  • This project involved a team of 4 UX Designers, including myself.
  • I participated in each phase of the project, splitting up the work with my UX Design colleagues.

The Issue / Task

  • For this project, a team of 4 people (including myself) conducted 7 phases of User Experience Research on the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) website. Since the DSL is a newer part of the library, not many people know much about it.
  • Our goal was to display the main information about the DSL on their website in the fastest, most efficient and easy-to-access way possible (so more people could easily learn about the DSL and what is offers). 

My Process (Summarized)

  • User Interviews to gather users’ current impression of the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) Website 
  • Develop User Personas based on the information gathered from the user interviews
  • Internal and Competitive Heuristic Analysis
  • Card Sorting- Done in person and Online using OptimalSort
  • Create redesigned low-fidelity wireframes of DSL website, based on current UX research done so far
  • Combine ideas from all four colleague’s wireframes into one, higher-fidelity and interactive prototype
  • Conduct User Testing on this interactive prototype, and make any necessary changes based on the feedback
  • Present research results and final prototype to DSL librarians and digital team for potential implementation

My Process (Detailed)

Phase One: User Interviews

  • My team and I conducted initial User Interviews to gather the users’ current impression of the DSL website, and to see what people did not know about the DSL but were interested in. 
  • The results of these interviews helped to determine what information to highlight on the website. A portion of the initial user interview questions can be viewed below.
Screenshot of Digital Scholarship Lab Interview Questions
Screenshot of the Interview Questions List

Phase Two: Developed User Personas based on the user interviews

Developing Personas made sure that our design was inclusive of every user, their needs, and their goals.

Phase Three: Internal and Competitive Heuristic Analysis

  • For this part of the project, my team used to Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics to evaluate the usability of the DSL website, and of similar websites to compare the DSL website to.
  • We developed a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best, or followed the heuristic perfectly) to complete the evaluation. This allowed us to gather quantitative data about the DSL website and websites similar to those of the DSL.
  • The comparison and evaluation of similar websites showed us what kind of user interaction patterns, content, features, and overall best practices were successful on other similar websites, and thus an ideal concept or feature to implement into the DSL website. 

Phase Four: Card sorting to develop an improved Information Architecture

  • Card sorting allowed us to gain insight on the users’ intuition, or in other words, how they would expect the website to be organized.
  • Thus, by using the data from the card sorting to develop/reorganize our new information architecture, we have created a more intuitive website for our users. 
  • Both person and online card sorting activities were conducted. A screenshot of the online card sorting activity is located below.

Phase Five: Wireframing

Creating a low-fidelity design based off of the user data gathered in each of the 4 previous phases. Each colleague/ team member created their own wireframes.

Phase Six: Developing an Interactive Prototype

  • Interaction patterns, features, and general designs were pulled from each team member’s wireframes, to create a single, high-fidelity prototype.
Final Prototype of the website’s Home Page

Phase Seven: User Testing

  • User Testing of our redesigned prototypes and any redesigns based on feedback.
  • This allowed us to make sure that our new features and designs were what the users were expecting and what they needed for the website to be useful for them.
  • Our data from this research, which was done by asking the user to perform a series of tasks (Usability Testing), shows that our redesigned prototype met the needs of the DSL users.
  •  The redesigned prototype was then presented to the stakeholders of the DSL for potential implementation. After the stakeholder reviewed our designs, several of our suggestions were implemented in the improved version of the website. 

Final Outcome

Overall, this comprehensive User Experience Research project gathered a lot of information for the Digital Scholarship Lab, and I gained a lot of experience working in User Experience Research. Our data seemed to be very beneficial, as an MSU librarian said that our research data and suggestions were very helpful during the redesigning of the website. Several of my team’s suggestions were implemented in the final version of the website. 

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