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Portfolio: Early Education and Care — information architecture

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) helps children on the path to lifelong learning and provides related information for families; the agency sets standards, issues licenses and is a source for education information. The Web site is part of mass.gov, the umbrella site for state government in Massachusetts.

Problems. Basically, it was hard to find information. The Commissioner and staff knew that users had different goals, that the site didn't tell a clear story and that the hierarchy of information was difficult to use. It was a repository of well over 1000 documents, many of which needed updating.

Project staff. I worked with members of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (subject-matter experts), Frameworks Institute (framing EEC's message and providing content), EEC staff (goals, direction and expertise) and the CIO of the Department of Education.

Personas. The first step was to create a shared understanding of who was visiting the site and what goals they had. We developed five personas:

  1. Family members: Those responsible for choosing and using child care services.
  2. Providers: People who run child care facilities.
  3. Teachers: Staff members who interact directly with children.
  4. Legislators & Policy Makers: Those who make laws or do research about child care.
  5. Community Leaders: Members of the local community with an interest in child care like School Committee members or Selectmen.

Sample persona

Family member: the primary persona
Open a larger version (PDF)

Quick goals. Right away, we updated the site to provide timely information for legislators and to collect information about EEC into one place. This helped us demonstrate what the IA redesign would be like.

Revising the information architecture. The next step turned out to be the most complicated. Reviewing the site showed that it was largely a collection of documents. We needed to look at all documents and pages to see what was still relevant, current, complete and located correctly.

Technical considerations. We also had to take into consideration the evolving design of mass.gov. It affected the back end as well as the UI.

Results. Staff members revised or created documents. We worked with staffers to develop a new IA, grouping information to make it easier to find. The Webmaster updated the IA to implement the new structure.

Longer-term suggestions included creating a wizard to help family members understand and find child care, and combining a number of search tools to simplify location-based search.

The new EEC Web site uses the new mass.gov presentation

 

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