Stuff has officially relaunched its popular School Report site! School Report is a digital platform to reveal and compare academic results (National Standards and NCEA), information and relevant links for every school in New Zealand.
Traditionally, Stuff has made updates to the site with a series of stories looking at things like funding or assessment. This year we've completely revamped the School Report website. It still has all of the NCEA and National Standards results for every school, plus demographic details and links to the latest Education Review Office reports, but it's now got a whole new look, is now responsive and has a more functional user interface.
Some of the problems we found with the old site included some of the critical information was inaccessible and unclear to the user, which goes against all digital design practices. Design is about taking something chaotic and complex and making it accessible to a user, hence this was the main objective when redesigning School Report. As stated by Alan Key, ‘Simple things should be simple, complex things should be possible.’
The first step in this mammoth project was to look at some use cases and define who the users were. Here is where our fantastic UX team came into play, as well as the designers to collaborate on the overarching user experience. The three target demographics we focused on were existing parents, new parents and nosy people/past students. As a result of our user research, we were able to design a site specific to the needs of the users to enhance the overall experience.
One of the most reliable ways to strengthen our work as designers is by sharing it with others. So we started having design reviews to share our findings and designs with other creatives within Fairfax Media. One of the most successful reviews was our weekly meeting with the Design and UX team in both Wellington and Auckland to provide critical feedback and insights.
Research has to be one of the most reliable ways to see what is already out there in the big wide world. To review what works, what doesn't and what you think could be improved. Once you have an understanding of what other similar products are offered, you are able to take that, review it, critically analyse it and use that knowledge to improve your own concepts and designs. After going through the first round of wireframes, and having a clear understanding of where the product sits within the industry, it was time to create some magic on screen and add some real content and colour.
Once we had a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) we were able to facilitate some user testing within the wider Wellington community to make sure the product did what we set out to do: take something chaotic and complex and make it simple and accessible to a user. After a fair amount of research, we had something that worked, so then began the process of refining and improving the design and layout of School Report.
After the repeating process of user testing followed by refinement, the developer started to get involved. A few months later we have a real live responsive website after many front-end and back-end challenges to overcome like the insane amount of data that needed to be plugged in dating back to 2004, implementing new OIDC login flow, tracking and advertising.
After all that, what a great day it was when School Report finally got released to the wider New Zealand public. This was supported by some incredible interactives, articles and video content about growing up as a child in New Zealand.
We have also had over 370,000 visits to School Report since it launched on the 27th June 2016.
As designers, we are responsible for what we put into the world and how it affects others. It is said that it’s more important that the product works and solves a problem than be beautiful. Too often in the design community, the interest lies in the form and disregards the function and beauty. But would someone interact with something that doesn't look visually appealing? surely beauty and functionality go hand in hand.
'Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form' – Alvar Aalto, 1928