For over 20 years,Texas Center for Educational Research (TCER) has stood for excellence in education research and reporting. Their goal has been, “to design and produce original research and provide high-quality information resources for those who make, influence, and implement education policy in Texas.” With that in mind, I set out to create a site that would showcase the breadth of content they offer.
The redesign started with re-envisioning the look and feel to reflect the forward-thinking, technology-oriented nature of the organization. Upon discussions with the client, we realized that in order to make the project a success, we needed to design the entire site, branding, collateral, and marketing from the ground up. Each needed to reflect the common sensibilities and concepts which our research revealed. In addition, the TCER Board wanted to market the group nationally and felt very strongly that the current Web site did not present them in a good light due to its dated design and static nature.
We evaluated the old site then determined which key research projects and findings should jump out at the visitors in a way that inspires them to seek out additional information. We needed the audience to immediately understand that TCER is unique and on the forefront of educational research. The information on the site is original, field-based research and not the repackaged content found on other sites.
From identity development to research
The look and feel would carry over from the identity design and was heavily influenced by the types of sites the client responded positively to. Aesthetics aside, the focus remained on education and technological sophistication while providing a comfortable environment for reading/understanding the research findings and case studies. The importance of applied research needed to be at the forefront and imbue prospective investors/visitors with confidence in the content. The design chosen would be the platform for future marketing efforts and thus needed to present a cohesive, consistent message with the identity and print collateral. That message of a dynamic, leading edge research firm still remains relevant to current social issues in schools.
Design and Production
Transitioning to a more dynamic site, meant constructing a standards-based site that was platform agnostic. A liquid design interface was employed that would adjust to the viewer’s browser width. Also employed was a mechanism by with main page feature images would resize according to the content width., providing the optimal reading experience for all visitors. A cache of images was provided for general topic stories and more specific images were selected as the need arose. One of the more critical pieces was being able to sort Word docs, PDFs, and other materials by kind. This “sort by” feature would become a major way in which visitors would navigate the site.
Due to the new “Sort by” feature, better information architecture, and organization, members could find information faster. Many commented that it was better organized and met the needs far better than the previous site. Unanimous acceptance of the site helped increase TCER’s positive reputation and helped lead to more funding initiatives.