The NASA website is a huge informational resource to learn about exciting missions and thought-provoking discoveries. The goal of this project was to create a more meaningful experience for users visiting nasa.gov.
I first had some assumptions about nasa.gov from using it myself for light reading or research purposes. Visually, I thought it looked like a website from the 90's and the experience felt weighted. Now I don't think this justifies need for a change, but was a cause to gain insight into peoples experience with the website.
First, I asked questions of why people use the website and how this relates to the experience, how does it compare to similar websites, and what would help people better use it.
Most Popular topics
To gain insight into statistical data I referenced www.analytics.usa.gov, a program offered by the US federal government that helps make clear how people find, access, and use government services online. Analyzing the most popular topics gave context to why people visit the website and what they are interested in seeing.
Summary of categories:
1. News and Media
2. Science and Education
According to analytic data, there is a estimated 55% bounce rate for the website
With an estimated 3 minute view time.
Now, Nasa.gov does not monetize their website so keeping people on their page as long as possible does not directly benefit them. I speculate the design will be more impactful for not keeping people on the website as long as possible, but to make their experience more meaningful in a short amount of time.
Creating more impact in a short amount of time
1. Navigation. On the homepage there are over 30 static links to explore and over 30 links through drop-down menus, giving the user many options to explore. The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices. Considering the short visits people will be spending, having a quicker and easier way to navigate would be beneficial. Talking to users, I learned that most resort to clicking random things because they feel overwhelmed.
2. Hierarchy. The current website uses a photo collage style layout that changes, the positions of the squares are not finite. At least bi-weekly, the hierarchy of information is changing and causes the user to adapt to the format. Creating a more distinct layout, that prioritizes information top to bottom, strikes familiarity with the user so they don't need to adapt to a constantly changing layout.
3. Desirable Information. Some users claimed that when visiting the site they did not know exactly what they are looking for. I asked users to write down topics they were interested or drawn to and also referenced analytic data showing what topics were of interest. Prioritizing relevant or popular topics can help the majority of user view things that interest them more quickly.
4. Visual Clarity. There are some accessibility issues that spur from the visual clarity of some elements. Namely how some text on the site has no formatting.
The UI is based on a UI/UX standards document I found through their site. The feeling of the site is more modern and less visually cluttered. This allows people to navigate easier, find topics that interest them quicker, and improves upon NASA's brand language. The next course of action would be to distill the user flow of the entire site and translate the decisions made with the homepage to other areas.