The challenge was to design an online newsletter concept for the Downlands College community to replace the current paper version and the manual PDF version. Although the design was intended for a specific client, my former agency had plans to develop the application as a hosted news product our other college clients could also use. With re-usability and scalability in mind, I kicked the project off by deep-diving into the project and user requirements.
As a result of my research, I pinpointed three primary user objectives based on insights provided to us by the college. These primary user objectives for the application were to:
• Quickly find relevant news articles
• Easily find upcoming college events
• Meticulously read each issue entirely
To better understand these objectives, the client and I created three user personas that would correlate to these needs.
The first persona was a high school teacher who would want to easily find news articles relevant to himself and his classes. The teacher works for the school full-time and is already aware of a lot of what is happening at the school. This persona might want to access newsletters on a work laptop.
The second persona was a mother of a student. She's an active member of the Parents and Friends Association so she's interested in upcoming events she might want to participate in. Being involved with the P&F, she wants to support the school community by attending events. This persona might want to access newsletters on their mobile phone.
The third persona is represented by two grandparents of a school student. As they aren't directly involved with the school, they want to meticulously read newsletters from start to finish as they want to feel closer to their grandchild and the community. The grandparents are retired and have time to read all of the articles at their own pace. This persona might want to access newsletters on their PC and print articles that interest them.
Using the personas as a starting point, I researched best practices from popular news and social sharing sites to help set the direction of the user experience. It was known that many parents and teachers rarely read news issues from cover to cover therefore we needed to factor this into the design and content architecture.
Below are wireframed examples of two user journeys which allow users to search articles based on keywords, quickly jump to news categories, access upcoming events and customise which categories to show by default. Wireframes were originally created for mobile to help focus on simplifying the content structure without fixating on the layout.
As the school is moving further into the digital space, the design needed to be flexible and cater for all departments of the college, from physical education to religion to the arts. At the core, it is a simple news site but as we iterated on design concepts we learnt more about how the college communicates to their community and were able to design accordingly. To help the college generate revenue from the project, we introduced rotating local sponsors and non-intrusive advertising into the design.
By including personas that correlated to each of the project objectives, we were able to design a system that catered for readers at varying levels. The architecture of the content and how news is accessed became not just a consideration in the design, but the major driving factor for the concept.
Giving more control to users meant they were able to peruse the weekly newsletter however they like and in whichever order they please.