COLLABORATIVE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH TOOL
ANNA SERRA, ERIKA SAM, LAURA EISE
Synapse.org, a collaborative scientific research platform, was originally created without any usability input and has not been redesigned since its launch in 2009.
Synapse offers scientific research teams a space to upload and manage data collaboratively, helping to expedite research processes and further open science. Because the site had never had any usability input, our team decided to implement traditional user research practices to help the organization better understand the different types of users coming to their platform and the common issues these users are experiencing.
Due to the scope of the project, we focused on the homepage redesign, which is referred to as the 'pre-sign in' experience.
How could we improve Synapse.org’s pre-sign in experience for new and existing users?
wrote the proposal
conducted preliminary research
drafted survey and interview questions
wrote content on the website
prototyped in Figma
contributed to the design system
WHERE WE STARTED
A heuristic evaluation & competitive analysis was conducted to get a base level understanding of current usability issues on the website. Usability issues were defined by severity levels to give stakeholders an idea of the issues at hand, such as these:
The homepage did not clearly list features, which made it difficult to understand that Synapse is more than a data storage platform.
The homepage did not have any top-level navigation, which limited discoverability of Synapse.org’s capabilities, site features, and support.
Feedforward elements and buttons were unclear on the homepage, which made the UI unclear and made the UI feel unresponsive.
There are no screenshots or examples of projects that have been completed on the platform, which made it difficult to know how different features of Synapse work and look once they are complete.
WHAT'S THE CURRENT EXPERIENCE?
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with current users of the platform to understand their experience and pain points with Synapse. A survey was also collected from current users to help inform triangulate qualitative data and inform our user types and storyboards.
Questions were designed to understand their current perceptions and attitudes about the platform as well as understand how they specifically use the platform.
Through this research process our team learned:
When users first came to the page had no idea how to get started or sign up for the product.
Users were only aware of 1 or 2 features of the platform and did not know where they could learn more about other features available.
Users primarily were project managers, data analysts, and scientific researchers working on projects and each had distinct features they used on the platform.
Qualitative data was analyzed using affinity diagramming to understand similarities and differences in user responses during interviews.
Because the team was was unaware of their specific user types and pain points of the current experience, we designed storyboards to highlight who is using Synapse and what challenges they experienced.
Here is an example of the storyboards:
A card sort was conducted with 15 participants to see how they grouped information on the website so we could create a simplified navigation directly on the homepage.
As you can see above this redefined information architecture allowed us to highlight information that was missing on the homepage, such as features and search functionality.
We also iterated 3 rounds of wireframes and validated changes through usability testing. See our final prototype here:
IMPLEMENTING UX INTERNALLY
We presented our findings and prototype to the entire organization via the slideshow below. We wanted to highlight what we had found in a way that actionable and impactful.
Additionally, we created a design system so designers of the company could continue creating strong UI elements across the platform as they worked on the UX after the pre-sign in experience.
D E S I G N S Y S T E M
& FUTURE STEPS
Being adaptable is important on a project. Our initial research pointed out the lack of clear user interface elements, so we ended up changing our deliverables to build this design system.
Having to make that call was an important point in our project, and helped us provide something more than what stakeholders expected.
Know how to tell your story, because that impacts the user's experience. The original website copy did not highlight what was important to their users, which is why we focused on that heavily throughout this project.
This entire usability overhaul was done in less than 4 months, so knowing how to scope and be adaptable was important on this project.
Learning new tools mid-process. Our team had to learn Figma, since that is the platform the design team at Synapse uses.
Getting stakeholder buy-in. This was the first time many people in the organization had seen a full usability project, so we really had to make sure that our findings and thought process was clear.
Synapse is part of a larger group of organizations so this has kick-started their overall UX work across organizations.
Continuing UX and implementing the design system are necessary to improve UX of the overall system and not just the website experience.