University at Buffalo Pilot Web Project

Websites | 

Information architecture, UX/UI Design, Usability Research and Testing (Team Lead)

The goal of is to recruit potential students and share academic and social experiences at UB. They needed a website that can grow and communicate with a broad range of users. In order to accomplish this, our team created the design to support the university’s brand. We used a flexible grid-based layout (12-grid) with interchangeable modules. To keep the website sustainable and allow for rapid growth, we used shared content and aggregated data.

The university used this design as a best practice example for other offices and departments.


The Process

To understand UB’s broad range of users, our team conducted extensive user research. We used Indi Young’s Mental Models and her ethnographic research methodology. We worked with Indi to define the University’s primary task-based audience segments. We also partnered with the consulting firm mStoner to do user interviews. We identified the key audiences’ common needs and categorized them into meaningful clusters. The website’s architecture, user interface design and content development were driven by this research. We made sure the end product was user-centered with repeated usability tests.

(above) An excerpt from the “Matchseeker mental model. The top half groups user tasks by common goals and themes. The bottom half represents our content gap analysis, which helped us understand where our existing content addressed specific user needs and what new content needed to be created.

Made Sustainable

The goal for this project is sustainability and scalability. So we design the site as a building block and component that can be reused.


UB’s homepage redesign won the 2012 Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Award for Best Complete Institutional Website.

The University at Buffalo won the top award this year for an impressive, comprehensive rethinking and redesign of its top-level website using ethnographic research on mental models pioneered by Indi Young. The site’s content, architecture, and research-based approach are absolutely award-worthy … illustrated that clear process, experimentation, iteration, strategy, and hard work yields results—and top honors.

—Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Awards 2012 Judges’ Report | Read the full report (PDF)