iSchool Portfolio

Redesign Proposal:

For my graduate-level information architecture course, I teamed up remotely with two classmates to complete a semester-long design proposal with several distinct components and deliverables, including content and business strategy, content inventory, user research plan and initial card sort task results, personas, and mock-ups or wireframes. We chose to focus on the website of the family-run California native plant nursery Las Pilitas, a treasure trove of information about gardening and nature that appears among the top Google search results for queries relevant to its somewhat niche interests, but suffers from navigation and wayfinding issues. Based on the publicly available SEO data we could find, we posited that a relatively high bounce rate reflected this poor navigation, meaning users landed on a particular page, such as a page about a popular plant family, but did not explore image galleries, information about specific varieties of the plant, advice about landscaping with these plants, and so on.

Screenshot of my early research notes

As students, my teammates and I balanced responsibilities in order to maximize learning, as the project was an opportunity to practice a variety of skills and gain experience with new tools. I created all the wireframes in Balsamiq; developed our content inventory process in Airtable; designed the report, personas, and and slides; performed competitive and background research; drew the final version of the site map diagram; and did light project management/tracking in a simple spreadsheet.

Screenshot of a portion of our project tracking spreadsheet

Based on content inventory and competitive research, we knew we needed to improve the site’s overall organization for more meaningful breadcrumbs to give visitors entering via web search a sense of where they’re at and what else they might explore. We expected this would also support effective “related” links on deep nodes like plant detail pages. Additionally, we wanted to explore modernizing the global navigation bar with a fat menu design. We tested a number of possible user flows on the existing site and noted pain points to accomplishing common user goals like making a purchase or finding plant information, which informed several smaller decisions in terms of buttons, tooltips, search interface, and media experience.

Since this was a student project with no client contact or budget for in-depth user research, we were limited in our scope. The wireframes, labels, and personas are all effectively a first iteration and would undoubtedly evolve over the course of doing real client-contracted work. In particular, I’d like to be able to see site analytics and search traffic data to more effectively identify important entry points and stress cases for visitors and customers. Additionally, the content library is enormous, far too many documents to cover for our project, but a thorough accounting of the site’s content and how it’s internally linked would be an important starting point for a site redesign.

User flow from entry point (plant group page) to a plant detail (product) page to shopping experience comparing existing experience with proposed redesign wireframes

Translating ideas and inspiration to a coherent mock-up requires creativity and a clear sense of your users and the product. We realized that, for as much as we could do on spec, our work would only really be actionable after we could address the limitations. Despite that, the team benefitted from the collaborative design process overall and enjoyed learning new tools, like Balsamiq, Lucidchart, and Airtable, to make design ideas tangible.

iSchool Portfolio

Social Media Data Analysis: Twitter

In Fall 2020, the final group project in Problem Solving With Data asked us to use newly-learned R and Python skills to analyze tweets to answer self-selected research questions aimed at addressing some kind of social good. My two-person team opted to look into Disability Twitter, a topic I proposed. I also pulled, filtered, and merged the data, as well as performing a large chunk of the content analysis and writing the corresponding sections of the report.

Final report (PDF) on Google Drive

While there are many aspects of the analysis I would do differently under other circumstances (see p. 28), it was a great opportunity to match my interest in/knowledge of a Twitter community with developing technical skills.

iSchool Portfolio

UX Evaluation & Prototyping: Yummly

For my graduate-level web usability course, I completed a solo project that explored a design problem and its possible solutions. I hypothesized that a key problem with recipe search experiences is the discoverability and ease of using filters so users could easily sift through recipes irrelevant to them based on ingredients, diet, style, or other factors. I focused on, a recipe search tool that already offers many of these filters, but could use improvements in some aspects of the user experience.

Compilation of annotated screenshots highlighting possible UX issues with top recipe search experiences
Screenshot of notes from informal user interviews collected via Instagram direct messages

Without a budget or resources for in-depth user research, I reached out to my personal network via Instagram to solicit feedback on recipe search experiences, including what they use to find recipes and their frustrations with recipe search. After identifying key user concerns, I performed competitive analysis of top recipe sites and identified their strengths and weaknesses. Based on this background research, I devised a list of potential user interface changes, taking heavy inspiration from Jenifer Tidwell’s Designing Interfaces patterns. These included a clear entry point the filter wizard to make this feature more prominent; adding modules for features results and suggested filters within the search results to enhance discovery and help users struggling with too many results; and using modal panels (popover windows) for filters, results, and source pages to address the problem with jumping users out of the search results without any way back. I also designed a “favorite site” feature that, in conjunction with an existing “saved recipes” function, could help personalize results for logged-in users.

Screenshot featuring multiple slides with prototype components

I faced significant challenges while working on this project, not least because it happened during Spring 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions severely limited my ability to perform prototype testing. Although the assignment only called for paper prototypes, at the time, I found it easier to use PowerPoint to develop a high-fidelity clickable prototype using screenshots, shapes/text, and embedded links to other slides to simulate clicking and scrolling. I had not yet become acquainted with professional wireframing tools and my instructor did not encourage remote user testing, so I could only test the experience with my partner.

Even this limited testing suggested a number of changes for a second iteration of the prototype and was an informative experience. Overall, as a first attempt at a solo user research and testing initiative, I learned quite a bit about how much I have to learn from other people–even people who are relatively “similar” to me–and that even relatively small-looking design iterations require thorough consideration. I also really enjoyed the process. Details of my process, findings, testing, and learning reflection can all be found in the linked report.