I worked as a UX (User Experience) Intern at Knollwood Military Retirement Community under the supervision of Mrs. Nancy Roderer, who is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Knollwood is a Military Retirement Community, located in NW Washington DC, and owned and operated by the Army Distaff Foundation.
As part of my internship, I worked on Knollwood’s intranet site for residents (see previous look of Home Page of website below), that is built over the Ning platform. The website provides its residents with information about meetings, dining, activities, and much more. The site itself had been active for around a year and needed to be improved and made more usable, as very few residents used it; the remaining finding it hard to use.
Being a retirement community, the users of the website were primarily senior members (remaining users being the administrative staff). This required understanding the needs of the users, their behavior, and their likes and dislikes, and re-designing the website in a way that would make it easy for them to use it.
I worked with the Website Committee that comprised of 8 members (7 of which were residents) who focused on tasks such as website administration (adding new members, administering their access rights, etc.), website maintenance (modifying the website’s content as and when needed) and content management (managing the content that goes onto the website).
My task, as a UX intern, was to apply HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) and UX methods to re-design the website making it more easy-to-use. This included:
Performing an expert review of the existing website
I performed a hybrid usability evaluation of the existing website through a mix of heuristic evaluation and scenario-based evaluation. 7 commonly performed user tasks were identified, and each task was evaluated using Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristic principles of usability. Finally, a list of issues and their severities were noted (see image below).
This list was presented to the Website committee, which gave them an idea of what are the immediate, high-severity issues. It also helped me understand what kind of issues could take months to resolve (for instance, issues like missing content that would need to be collected from residents). The meeting helped me understand which issues to focus on.
Next, I reviewed the existing website’s content, categorized it, organized the information to create wireframes. I did this to get a general idea of how the re-designed website could look. The final decision would be made based on user feedback (through card sorting sessions). 2 of the screens’ wireframes can be seen below (written not in my best handwriting).
Carrying out usability tests
Formal usability tests were conducted to understand the views and opinions of the users, and to learn about what made the existing website difficult for them to use. A total of 10 participants were involved in the usability testing of the existing website, and each were given 4 tasks to perform. The information collected through this study was very helpful and generated meaningful and rich insights.
The usability study helped gather the pros and cons of the existing website (see image below). This way, we’d ensure that while we take efforts to improve the cons, we do not end up getting away with the pros too.
Conducting card sorting activity
A hybrid card sorting (open as well as closed card sorting) activity was organized at the Knollwood Military Retirement Community in which a total of 19 residents participated. The hybrid nature of the activity ensured that the participants were guided through the fixed content cards that were provided to them while also giving them the liberty to add or remove category cards (Category cards make the primary structure of the website with the content cards depicting the content that would fall under each of these categories). This way, we’d get as close to the participant’s idea of content organization as possible.
The card sorting helped us understand how the information on the re-designed website should be organized. While we received varied results from participants for some categories, few other categories were clear winners as to what kind of content should be placed under them.
Organizing the content a second time
This time, we had rich data that drove the content organization. The result of the card sorting activity was a primary driver of this phase. The card sorting result was analyzed and the website’s content was carefully placed under respective (or rather, winning) categories. The first phase of this step ended up looking like the image below:
Next, we restructured the above content into a Site Map (see image below).
Once we had the content organized and approved by the committee members, I created an interactive prototype of the re-designed website.
Modifying the website
Once the committee members reviewed the interactive wireframe to understand the re-structured web content, on receiving their approval after a few modifications, the existing website was re-designed over the Ning platform. Ning was continued to be used as the website committee had grown comfortable working with that platform.
Evaluating the re-designed website
Finally, once the re-designed website went live, the site was monitored for a few weeks, and any changes that were needed to be made to the launched website were made.