A three year federally-funded project to investigate and develop facilitation practices for informal learning in STEM areas. Working with partners at a science center in the Southeastern U.S., our university-based team developed and tested a “facilitation toolkit” for museum staff charged with leading online activities and discussions to foster public engagement and learning about science. We subsequently developed an interactive version of the toolkit- a web-based application that performs rhetorical analysis and visualizes results on the fly - as an assistive resource for training facilitators and aiding decision-making during facilitation sessions.
The University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI) contacted us to complete a design and usability study of their website. In addition to a design and usability study of their website, REI also showed interest in an online survey to get a better sense of their users. Throughout the course of this semester we have used this information to not only test the current REI website but also recommend some ways to enhance the experience of each user.
To conduct the usability of the current website, we chose Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics for Usability. These 10 principles helped us in testing the overall visibility, consistency and language of the current REI website. We each completed this test separately to ensure our answers weren’t influenced by others and more importantly to ensure we hit every point throughout the website.
For the competitive analysis, we conducted the test in a similar way. We chose five comparable websites to the REI site based mainly on functionality. Among the sites we chose were a site from the University of Wisconsin, a site from a town in Wisconsin and a site consisting of many forums among other features. After choosing five comparable sites, we individually went through and took note of things REI did better than the rest as well as things that could be improved to put REI’s website a step above.