Media Literacy meets Web Literacy

Project Looksharp is an incredible online resource for lesson plans around media literacy. They offer thousands of high quality lessons, standards compliant, and free to download covering topics from presidential elections, to geography, to climate change, and more. Essentially, they are an SEO optimizers dream.

The problem was that they did not have a grasp of who their audience was, or rather who the most important personas were. They were trying to reach everyone all at once, from the academic highly versed in media literacy language to the kindergarten teacher seeking out a 15 minute lesson for a group of 6 year olds. Consequently they were having a hard time reaching anyone at all.

We encouraged them to begin with only two major personas for their rebuild. The site could always be expanded upon post-launch, but more than two personas along with the complexity of a rebuild would overload their budget and resources.

We conducted guerrilla user testing with volunteers over the course of several weeks, and distilled responses into three lean personas. Because our timeline was moving quickly we developed shorter, condensed skeleton personas based on a mix of real data and stakeholder understanding of their customers. Our two personas in detail:

Persona one: High School social studies teacher Sarah Stevens.

Sarah is a dedicated teacher of 9th and 10th grade social studies. She has been teaching for four years, loves the teaching aspect of her work, but finds the paperwork and planning take up too much of her time.

Sarah is aware of hidden bias in lesson plans of the past and seeks out lesson plans that not only meet her state curriculum guidelines, but that also represent multiple points of view in an unbiased manner. Media literacy is a concept she is familiar with and is important to her, she strives to cultivate values of independent thought in her students.

Sarah has a very limited budget for school supplies. She is comfortable with technology and actively uses the internet to seek out high quality, free resources for her classroom.

Persona two: Middle School librarian Karen MacDougal.

Karen is a librarian who cares deeply about student knowledge. She stays up to date on the latest publications and approaches to learning and wants to share them with students at her middle school.

She enjoys challenging students to look at contemporary issues from different points of view. Due to increasing budget cuts Karen actively seeks out free lesson plans to share with students at her school, though her standards are high and only professional, quality, and standards-compliant resources make the cut.

Karen would like to improve her teaching skills and is interested in affordable continuing education courses.

In addition to these lean personas we were fortunate to have a client liason who had worked with the stakeholders to determine their navigation and some primary site organization in advance. We were provided with some incredible word documents chock full of thoughtful details. Though we did not agree with all of their suggestions and conclusions, it was a wonderful introduction to their way of thinking. And the fact that they were all on the same page gave us a clear jumping off point. Below is a screenshot of their navigation suggestions:

Client suggestions for navigation and primary site organization

We were able to quickly translate these notes into a working, responsive, lo-fi wireframe. The screenshot below shows the navigation, expanded search in a more prominent location, and highlighted links for the two primary user personas as well as important marketing links for other services.

Within days of receiving their carefully gathered notes we were able to express them in a full working prototype website that even the least tech-saavy customer could understand.

“Look at it on your phones!” is one of our first directives, as its important to remind people to think in terms of the most challenging UI environment first. What would have at one point in the past been a painstaking and rather painful process of talking about responsive behaviour while pointing at static layouts is now a seamless part of building and evaluating website value while continuously moving forward.

If this sounds like it could improve your current process get started here: the no-handoff manifesto