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LINCS Portal Design

Project Type

Product Design, Responsive UI Design, Iterative Co-Design

Role

Project Lead: Product Designer

Duration

12 Months

I led the project to design the LINCS Portal, a central access and information hub for the LINCS platform. As the only UX Designer on this project, I directed the process from zero to launch with the help of developers, content writers, data research specialists, and project owners.

 

By collecting business requirements and conducting comparative analyses early, I was able to work with a knowledgeable foundation of the industry and organization. I incorporated information architecture and content design principles for interior page navigation, and worked directly with developers to design a fully responsive product.   

LINCS Logo: the word LINCS with a maple leaf. Underneath the initialism is spelled out: Linked Infrastructure for Newtowked Cultural Scholarship

Context

The LINCS Project is a team of researchers, developers, designers, and data experts creating a suite of data research tools for linked open data unlike anything currently available for researchers of the digital humanities. 

Discovery

I conducted one on one interviews with LINCS staff, gathered pre-existing user stories, and analyzed websites from comparable organizations to improve my understanding of the industry, the organization, and our users.

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Stakeholder Management

I identified directors and team leads whose understanding of the LINCS Project as a whole would be integral for my designs, and met with them to gather requirements. I learned about the project as a whole, and how important it would be to continue to update all parties through the process.

Defining the User

I gathered pre-existing user stories and personas to quickly gain an understanding of who we were expecting to be able to serve, but knew that I needed to speak to users to better refine these stories and define our primary user groups. I learned that the Portal would need to be usable by both absolute beginners working on behalf of a research team, and highly technical users working alone.

A user persona for Nicole Parrish, a new user of LINCS who has intermediate LOD and low programming competency. She wants to visualize social network patterns but is frustrated with the lack of materials at her school.

Comparative Analysis

I conducted a comparative analysis of similar websites. I learned that Linked Open Data research tools were often academic international projects whose landing pages answered the questions Who are we? and What can you do with our tools? The LINCS Portal needed a concise overview of what the specialized suite of tools could do for researchers, and where to go next based on users’ needs.

Discovery

Research

To support my discovery work, I conducted co-design sessions with LINCS staff. I also ran moderated and unmoderated testing with users to understand the ways they would interact with the Portal and what tasks they would prioritize while using LINCS.

Design Workshop

I created a medium-fidelity mockup of the main page to share with the Interface Working Group, a committee consisting of 30 leaders from the development, research, data, content, and design teams. Using Figjam I led a one hour collaborative design activity to uncover each team’s needs for the Portal and align on requirements.

A screenshot of a Figjam board. There is a medium fidelity mockup of a the Portal main page and sticky notes, hearts and thumbs up stickers around. Some notes have been pulled out for easier reading, like "Need a toggle for French" or "Too many search options!"

Card Sorting and Tree Testing

In the summer of 2022, I conducted moderated card sorts and unmoderated tree tests to create and validate the information architecture of the Portal. From this, I was able to create a global navigation that would guide users of all levels. Read more about these tests in my Portal Navigation Case Study.

Research
Screenshot 2023-02-13 at 05-57-08 LINCS Portal Fall 2022 Work Plan.png

Evaluation

In Fall 2022, I led a usability test on the live site to validate designs and introduce the LINCS Portal to users. Part of my responsibilities also included managing and collaborating with stakeholders to design content. Read the report here.

To prepare, I met with all stakeholders including project leads, content designers, data researchers, and developers, to understand our goals and narrow our focus. I created a work plan shared to all parties to track our progress as a group while we worked asynchronously. I managed the work of two UX researchers to create a work plan, recruit participants, run tests, analyze patterns, and report findings.

Findings

1

Users could not tell the difference between 'Creating' and 'Publishing' data

We developed new labels and language to clarify the two data creation flows

2

Users were overwhelmed with options on the main page

I redesigned the main page with user paths in mind for clearer guidance.

3

Users thought they could access data directly on the LINCS Portal
We made minor edits to the navigational structure to give a stronger idea of what information users can expect from the Portal

4

Users scanned internal pages, missing important directional links
I worked with the content team and directors to limit large bodies of text and ensure direction is given through headings, lists, and buttons.

Evaluation
Design

Design

I focused my design efforts on building a fully responsive, accessible, and bilingual home page that guides users to the answers to their questions. We went through several iterations to land on a final design.

Styles

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Final Design

View the LINCS Portal Live! (May not reflect current designs)

LINCS Portal Main Page (Desktop View)
LINCS Portal Main Page (Mobile View)
LINCS Portal Main Page (Tablet View)

Lessons

Trust the process, but always ask ‘Why’? We needed to pivot many times throughout the project. When a new feature was proposed or a designed feature had to be scrapped, I always returned to the why of the project before designing. By doing this, I ensured that we stayed within scope and honoured user research while remaining open to new directions.

UX Designers are the connective tissue between teams. Communication between teams is necessary for our work. During meetings, I found myself able to fill teams in on what others were working on. While not an explicit responsibility of UX Designers, being able to provide context about the project as a whole and who to contact for specific questions reduced miscommunication and redundant work.

Learn as much as you can from the people around you. When I am unfamiliar with the industry, the best way to remain productive is to front load my curiosity. I spent the first weeks of the project learning about Linked Open Data, SPARQL queries, and CIDOC-CRM. I asked questions whenever I had a willing expert, and quickly laid a foundation of knowledge to work from.

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Acknowledgements

The LINCS Portal was designed in 2022 for the LINCS Project based out of the University of Guelph.

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