Industrial Technology Research Institute Website Redesign

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The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is a non-profit R&D organization engaged in applied research and technical service. It was founded in 1973 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) of the Republic of China to attend to the technological needs of Taiwan’s industrial development. Today ITRI is a 6,000-person operation organized under twelve research divisions serving a wide range of new and traditional industries.

Our team had a long term relationship with the growth and refinement of ITRI’s web communication strategy – I provided user experience leadership for these large group of multilingual web sites for over 6 years. We continuously balanced business and user needs, centralized resources but decentralized data collection, refined the visual and editorial voice presented to the site visitors, and moved from an engineering to a user first mind set. All of this was to improve the overall user experience with the site.

While we employed constant iteration to various aspects of the external websites, the organization tended to focus on larger changes. In this redesign we focused on improving information find-ability, enterprise design guidelines and standards, web standards, usability improvements, and implementation of an Interwoven content management solution.

I was the user experience lead, and had responsibility for information architecture (using methods like task analysis, card sorting, wire-framing, personas), design, prototyping and user testing.

This particular project was completed over 13 years ago now and reflect my interests and capabilities at that time. One of my great mistakes has been not keeping adequate records of my work – much of the evidence of my thinking at that time has been lost, particularly all the paper sketches, my medium of choice.

Process

Our process was a pretty strict waterfall process with some iteration and change within each stage. We were user centered, but the test/iterate/test etc. type process that I might more commonly employ now, wasn’t possible then. We tended to test later in the later stages, then change and complete. Despite changing the development culture to be user centered, their was still a disconnect between “art” and engineering, with us sending off a completed spec to be developed, and little collaboration after that.

Our design process is shown below:

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To improve information find-ability, there were problems found via complaints, heuristic analysis, and testing, we relied upon: strict categorization (we had a great team of librarians), card sorting and interviews to create structures that users want to use, and task analysis. Subsequent user testing confirmed our approach.

From my presentation at the time:

“In the early years of the Web the emphasis was on the individual Web site as the unit of design, the “killer site” that would define the enterprise’s identity on the Web. Today such simplistic conceptual frameworks are irrelevant when most corporations, government entities, and universities now create and maintain tens of thousands of Web pages a year in their Internet Web sites. The next phase in the development of the Web will be a conceptual shift from the design of individual Web sites to the design of comprehensive Web-based communications systems that organize and link hundreds of smaller sites into a coherent and navigable whole.”

At that time I spent a great deal of time sketching on whiteboards and communicating to stakeholders the value of what we were doing. We would create sitemaps, like most teams, preliminary sketches of UI and layouts, and then more finalized examples like the wireframes below.

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A somewhat typical information architecture process from that time.

Design screenshots

From my brief:

”Today’s sensation is tomorrow’s blank stare,” sums up the ebb and flow of color trends. Like fashion, tastes in colors can change with the seasons. But like a pair of Levi’s blue jeans can some colors get better over time? Can they retain their intended message? We need to not focus on “cutting edge” color or things that we think look good today. Color needs to reflect the message and must continually reflect that message tomorrow. It is quite difficult to project what a color means to someone else. Though there are some general rules it is totally subjective. Rather than focus entirely on the subjective and intangible aspects of color emotion, we’ve chosen to try to focus on harmonic relationships of color and their combined effect.
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http://www.itri.org.tw