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Accessibility Mobile Responsive User Experience

NYU-ITP HELP: Redesigning an Accessible Campus Help Page

In 2018, NYU Tisch — ITP initiated an Accessibility Corps and Redesigned the ITP Help Site

The ITP help page supports 200+ students of NYU Tisch-ITP. This project is where I started incorporating accessibility in my UX practice. It has sparked my curiosity for inclusive design, and helped me gain subject matter expertise on WCAG 2.0 Web Accessibility standards.

Web accessibility simply means “an inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent access to websites by people of all types of abilities.” You can read more about WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines here.

I broke down a quick overview on how we tackled the project in the first 12 weeks, where our team went from learning about WCAG, redesigning for accessibility and teaching content managers how to be inclusive in their content creation process.

Week 1–3: How do you make websites accessible?

Before we can revamp the site to meet WCAG standards, there were many requirements to consider:

  1. The site is hosted on Google Sites. We have consulted Web Accessibility experts and they recommend that we migrate the hosting from Google to WordPress, as the site has plenty of options with accessibility features.
  2. User Experience is integral to prior to content migration, so instead of auditing for accessibility, we had to take a step back and redesign the IA of the site first.
  3. Identifying managers of the site helped shape the initial redesign of the navigation, understanding which sites are deprecated, so we only carry over only what is relevant and useable content.

During my preliminary user interviews, I have heard many origin stories, some quick glances to how certain pages came about, (ITP is turning 40 this year!) and helpful insights from both admin users and the students.

What I’ve been hearing from the administrator’s side:

“We built this page so our e-mails to students would somehow live in a landing page.”

“The pages were born out of student’s needs and then it became unwieldy, or obsolete as most communications happen in the e-mails.”

“My workflow relies heavily on recreating last year’s pages, and keeping old recent versions accessible for reuse.”

What the students say:

“Iconography would help a lot in easily identifying content.”

“I would search Office Hours by google-ing. It’s faster that way.”

The team started with a simple survey to understand usage of the site.

I have created a pre- web redesign survey to identify features that would need focus in the redesign and the student questionnaire results.

Overview of results:

Week 4: Designing for Digital Accessibility: Teach Access Tutorial

At this point, the team was able to attend an hour workshop to understand the basics of digital accessibility. Teach Access has a good basic tutorial on building accessible sites.

Some of the notes that stood out for me:

  • Is the contrast good? Use the color contrast app analyzer from The Paciello Group
  • Does the video have captioning? Google slides have a setting that can translate a presentation into captions.
  • How does one compose a standard alternate text?
  • Instead of hiding information, make sure all important and major information is displayed vs using accordions.
  • More of the accessibility quick win checklist here.

Week 5: A quick overview of the site map.

Using the current site map, the following were the steps we took:

  • Pull the current sitemap and do initial card sorting and design studio.
  • Review with stakeholders. Iterate based on feedback.
  • Create first wireframe and clickable prototype.

Week 6–7: Navigation redesign based on user roles

Our team spent 2 weeks to identify and rearchitect sections and pages in order of importance based on the initial survey we have done.

Original Site Map of the existing ITP Help Site

One of the challenges that we have encountered is that there were plenty of deprecated sites that need to be re-validated with Content Managers. For the first redesign, we wanted to simplify and do a cleanup of content and categorize the navigation considering not just the students need, but also content managers who are using the help site as a landing page to send out critical information to students.

The site is over a decade old and was managed by 3 content managers:

  1. admin in charge of Registration
  2. admin in charge of floor operations
  3. editor that updates the event page

Week 8–9: Theming, styling, and identifying a scalable workflow

Selecting WordPress as a platform helped us expedite the web development side and focused on design and reorganizing content. We focused on Office Hours page as it is one of the most frequently used feature of the site. The page was redesigned and converted into custom HTML/CSS tables. We started working on setting up a child theme and translated the wireframe design into a proper homepage complete with hierarchy 3 sidebar.

While I had started adding content under the main page “Registration”, we started noticing some issues:

  1. Content is very text-heavy eg. First Year Registration page, with both first year students in the team, Mark and Karina doesn’t recall benefitting from the content as they were going through registration. They recommended that the content could be cut shorter.
  2. Labels needing a revamp. Some page titles are either too long, or are not very clear.
  3. Creating a mobile-responsive version is part of first release.
  4. Is hierarchy 3 (sidebar navigation) even necessary? We will have to validate this through user testing. We later found out that limiting the hierarchy to two levels is the most scalable design solution.
Old site vs. New Site

Week 10–12: Empowering Content Managers

The team has curated a list of guidelines that we will turnover to the content managers so new content created are being maintained following standards.

We have been improving the site and use github for updates on the guideline document. The final site is now published on https://itp.nyu.edu/help.

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