The Legislative Update is an email newsletter that has been designed to keep subscribers up to date on recent legislative actions that impact the University of Missouri. It also wants to allow them to explore additional information surrounding these actions through the links to various state and federal governmental websites. Users should have knowledge of how emailed newsletters present information, be familiar with the process of posting comments to a website or blog, and understand the concept of web links.
The legislative update will feature a simple design. This is to answer the concern of information overload towards the user. Before the website would just have all stories on one page making it difficult to read through effectively. With the new design small snippets of the story are taken and broken up into small blocks on the main webpage. Each story snippet will then have a link that features the full story.
Another feature that the website will now offer is providing context for users surrounding the stories they’re reading through the use of hyperlinks throughout the article’s text. Each of these links will lead the user to information that will help give them a better context for the information presented in the article.
To help make it easier for the user to act on the information they’re reading a “Get Involved” page will be added to the top level navigation. This page will alert the user to the fact that he/she can have a voice in what they’re reading. It will offer a list of relevant hyperlinks to both State and Federal government resources that the user can then contact. The left side navigation links will be reserved for the article index for the current issue and specific MU System links.
Lastly the engagement feature for users to post comments will now be at the bottom of every story. The user will now be able to comment and/or like the story of the legislature event which gives him/her yet another way to interact with the information they’re reading.
The Legislative Update is best redesigned following the mental model framework. By building on the user’s mental model of both an email newsletter and a standard web page or blog we can make it easier for them to know how to interact with the information they’re being presented with. Many email newsletters and websites do a good job of chunking information into bite-sized pieces so as not to overwhelm the user with too much textual information. In addition, they sprinkle links to additional information about the topic throughout the article so the user can further explore the topic if she so chooses.
A couple of examples of how the mental model framework can be implemented in this project:
Currently the user is presented with a dense page of headings and articles in a long, scrolling-style page that increases the user’s cognitive load. By chunking the articles into smaller visual pieces the user can see at a glance what the different stories are and select the one she wishes to read more about. This is a common practice on both email newsletters as well as blogs and would be a good way to trade on the user’s familiarity with these models.
Next, the left-side navigation links that are supposed to direct users to explore additional information are confusing and unclear. We can utilize the more familiar format of placing hyperlinks to additional contextual information within the articles themselves. These links would ideally open in a new tab or page so as to allow the user to easily return to the article(s) she was reading to begin with. Again, the practice of linking key words and phrases within an article is a common occurrence on websites. Ideally, the user would be familiar with how they work and, thus, able to translate that knowledge to interacting with the Legislative Update.