Journal of Extension article highlights how videoconferencing can be used for stakeholder-driven design

GLANSIS website redesign relied on virtual hands-on feedback from users.

Screenshot of the GLANSIS main website page.
The redesigned GLANSIS home page, inspired by stakeholder feedback.

An article from the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) team published in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of Extension, highlights some considerations and best practices for stakeholder-driven design of Extension products using videoconferencing -- a tool that those in education and outreach have had to become increasingly familiar with over the course of 2020.

Website redesign process

The GLANSIS database is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for information on aquatic invasive species, providing resources and information on their identification, impacts, management, control, and more.

When the GLANSIS team began the process of redesigning the website to make it more user-friendly in early 2019, they knew they faced several challenges. Usability testing for websites, databases, and other online Extension products is time-consuming and requires multiple rounds of feedback from participants. With a stakeholder group of fellow scientists, environmental managers, and educators spread across the entire Great Lakes basin, the team determined that the time and monetary cost of in-person usability testing through interviews or focus groups was too steep, and decided to try virtual usability testing instead.

The team interviewed 10 experienced GLANSIS users from different Great Lakes environmental management groups and used the videoconferencing platform BlueJeans to share visual information. Participants navigated through the GLANSIS database and highlighted different areas of the site they found especially useful in their work, while sharing thoughts about how the design, layout, and content of different sections could be improved. Being able to see what participants were seeing in real-time and prompt discussion about specific aspects of the site using a semi-structured interview format helped the team develop an in-depth needs assessment for the planned redesign that was tailored to users’ specifications. This feedback was used to drive the design and content of the redesigned GLANSIS site, which was launched in summer 2019.

Changes made, lessons learned

Changes included a landing page with improved site navigation, an FAQ section addressing the history and purpose of the database along with improved guides for tool use, new sections of the site such as the Risk Assessment Clearinghouse and the contribution portal, and an updated layout compatible with mobile devices as well as screen readers and other accessibility tools.

The lessons learned from this process may be valuable for other researchers and communicators adjusting to virtual work. To learn more, check out the publication at the open-access Journal of Extension. Explore the results of stakeholder-driven design yourself on GLANSIS.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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