Case Study: Dyersburg State Community College
College and university websites are notorious for having a poor user experience. When Dyersburg State Community College contacted us, they had a simple directive: make the experience on our site better.
Higher education websites suffer from a number of challenges: large amounts of content, a diverse management structure and heavy layers of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, these factors often get exposed online, where websites become laden with unstructured layers of content and design decisions that are driven more heavily by politics instead of user needs. The challenges with DSCC were no different: a large amount of content, diverse stakeholder needs and an unclear understanding of user needs. Our role was to help DSCC untangle these challenges through understanding of their users, and work toward a better solution that served both the college and it’s diverse constituencies.
During the course of this project, we used a myriad of user-centered design techniques to help uncover insights and develop understanding about how to better serve the user base. We started with research, interviewing users from several constituency groups to better understand their lives, and how the college’s website might play a role. As we dug into the findings from these sessions, we started developing insights into ways that the college could better serve their user base. In addition to this research, we worked with users to collaboratively restructure the information architecture, turning to techniques like open card sorting to help establish understanding about how users think about the college’s content and develop a more meaningful architecture for the site.
Our design process was both collaborative and iterative. Working with various stakeholders at the college, we conducted workshops to help establish a common design language and direction, informing the rest of the design work for the project.
Through our research and conversations with stakeholders, we identified areas where innovation was possible. One of these areas was the development of the Form Center – a section of the site dedicated to all the forms users would need access to, with accompanying information about what the form is for, how to complete it, and where to bring it when finished. This aspect of the design – which included a layer of service design both on and off the web – constituted a new and innovative approach to serving this information to users, one that is grounded in a deep understanding of how their users manage their relationship with the college.
The result of our work with Dyersburg State Community College is a much more tightly organized and efficient web presence, with a more scalable and sustainable information architecture. The new site design allows DSCC to serve their users in a much more focused and clear manner, while affording them the flexibility to grow the site as needed in the future. Innovative elements like the Form Center will serve users in groundbreaking new ways, redefining the way certain information is disseminated to higher education users.