childrensmuseum.org

Defining the user experience for a responsive website for The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is an enormously popular travel destination for families from all over the country, but especially regionally in the Midwest. Their website had become outdated and lacked the kind of interactivity and excitement they thought the brand deserved. It was also not mobile-friendly so the digital team at the Museum was trying to overhaul all of their digital properties to be responsive, starting with the public website.

The Museum first hired me to conduct user research, and to analyze site traffic metrics. I planned a three-pronged research methodology and provided the Museum with the insights and strategies from the research. The result of that user research project was partially what you see here: a strategy for their website to be redesigned in a responsive format.

For the sake of focus, I chose to feature the Museum's online calendar system which we spent an extraordinary amount of time working on due to its complexity, and also due to its importance amongst website visitors. The Museum hosts hundreds of events each month, from regularly occurring classes to fundraising events, not to mention their ongoing and special exhibits.

Project Goals
  • Define the user experience for the Museum's public facing calendar of events

  • Define the internal user experience for the admin system of the calendar

  • Provide UX artifacts that were thorough enough to hand off to the Museum's in-house digital team who were doing all of the UI design, development, and testing

Special Considerations

I architected not only the front-end (public facing) online calendar but also the CMS admin area. This was to help the Museum's developers think through all the use cases and how the site administrators will need to edit the Calendar because the dev team was custom building the admin interfaces.

Because the Museum's in-house team was going to be doing all of the UI design work and the development, my UX documents had to contain a high level of explanation and clarity. I also was careful to ensure that every possible use case and condition was considered and illustrated in my wireframes, since I wouldn't have the chance to throw in ad hoc UX repairs as development and testing took place.

In addition, the Museum team wanted to build their own admin system and interface. Because I had already spent time with the team understanding their calendar of events database, I was able to put that knowledge to work in organizing and defining the UI for the admin area of the calendar.

The Team & My Role

I was a UX team of one, collaborating with the Museum's Director of Digital Media. I was the main point-of-contact for this client at my agency.

My Approach

As part of previously completed projects, I had conducted user research and site traffic analysis for the Museum. I had also spent a full day with their digital team, off-site, reviewing and rearchitecting their calendar event taxonomy for easier management.

Wireframes & annotations: childrensmuseum.org/visit/calendar
The opposite of agile or lean, this project required that I create high-fidelity wireframes that were heavily annotated. I used the "mobile first" approach.

My wireframes provided the page layouts for the smallest screens and the largest screens. The behavior of the UI in the interim widths were to be determined by the Museum's design and dev team.

I was pleased to see that the Museum is still using the calendar we designed. This is a live screen capture from October 2017.

Wireframes & annotations: Admin UI
Obviously, the users of the Museum's calendar admin tool were a totally different audience with distinct expectations, needs, and even terminology. I worked with their team to effectively understand who the admin users might be and created a system UI that even a new employee could learn quickly. 

The top priority of the admin system UX was to ensure that complex event listings were populated in a consistent way, with all of the necessary information so that the public would have a satisfying experience when they used the website calendar to find things to do at the Museum. Without an admin in place, it would be easy for various content contributors to populate calendar events that lacked pertinent information and made the website experience frustrating for visitors. 

Architecting and designing admin interfaces is surprisingly fun. It appeals to the overly organized side of me, where no stone is left unturned and everything is ordered into classifications.

© 2018 by Grace Stoeckle 

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