When the University of Toronto’s Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI) found its user community of over 15,000 amazed, but overwhelmed by the labyrinthine paths to information on its service-oriented website, it turned to Flywheel for help. We created a completely rationalized new platform for enhancing the university’s research and innovation mission that left users informed.
It was a monster of a problem.
With its vast tangle of information, the site was overly complex. The way forward was to understand its many audiences and come to grips with the support the U of T research community needs to run one of the world’s top five institutions in research output. After conducting stakeholder interviews, we became lecturers for a day and presented an interactive mock-up and plan to encourage feedback and refinement from a large group of representative users.
Buy-in for the plan was essential.
To ensure the final website would reflect the values of the university, support VPRI’s research mission, and meet the needs of its user community, everyone had to be heard and brought on board. So, we built many points of review into the process and did presentations at important milestones. We shaped and reshaped our plan to include VPRI’s and their stakeholders’ insights and feedback. The launch proved a great success in part because VPRI’s team members, corporate partners, researchers, and website users at all levels could see their input at work.
Our work for VPRI cut through the maze of clicks.
We created a new structure organized around what user groups need to do, rather than who user groups are (researcher, student etc.), as on the old website. We built flexible yet consistent page templates for the website that help people understand the information layout of every page once they’ve understood the layout of one. We supported the whole through persona documents and a comprehensive style guide to ensure that the look, feel and, above all, organizational logic of the site is maintained as new content is introduced. The result is streamlined, intuitive access to an extraordinarily rich and complex store of information. Researchers now get what they need, when they need it, along clear, logical pathways.
“People were really impressed,”
VPRI told us after the new site was launched. VPRI leadership was “very pleasantly surprised with just how positive the comments were” from a research community that can be a discerning crowd. The website worked to enable research administration at U of T and supported the information gathering process for all researchers. Users loved not only the information architecture but the new look. They were amazed.