Glasgow Science Centre

The design and build of a new website for Glasgow Science Centre.

The background

Back in the winter of 2016, Story UK won a pitch to build a new website for Glasgow Science Centre.  They wanted to enhance many of their old website metrics. To accommodate this, we carried out a complete overhaul of their digital space. This involved a Drupal CMS site that would seamlessly integrate with the Magento 2 platform. I was responsible for:

  • User research
  • Interface design
  • Front end build
  • Usability testing

The website launched in September 2017.

Getting started

A key to any project is to get to know the people or organisation that you are working with. Straight after the pitch, we headed upstairs to the Science Mall (somewhat misleadingly – it’s not a shop) to experience the centre first hand. It’s a great space and really gave us the knowledge of what the place is all about. One chap looked overly disfigured from smoking. An indoor running track. Even a human hamster wheel! It really was an impressive environment to explore. We left as a party of school children rocked up.

Once back in the office (post Xmas), I began to explore the user journeys and personas. The team at GSC had been incredibly helpful and even supplied their own site map based on their knowledge. It was my job to flesh these both out a little. After a few rounds of amends, the GSC team were happy that their target audiences had been covered. With the structure of the site matching the expectations that they had in mind, it was time to start prototyping.

Prototyping

It was essential that I spent time creating the wireframes. Based on the user journeys and personas that had been created, I decided to approach them using a step by step basis. This involved:

  • The process of purchasing a ticket
  • Focussing on finding information about the centre
  • Other special pages that required attention.

After about 4 weeks of work, the wireframes were in a complete state. The vast majority (aside from basic content pages) was scoped out. By looking at the structure of them, it is clear to see that there are similarities between the prototype and the final site.

Design

The GSC team had undertaken some rebranding work prior to us pitching for the project. Whilst doing this, they had made use of a far more appealing colour scheme, used modern fonts and relied on icon usage too. To a certain extent, this made my job a lot easier. It’s so nice when the brand you’re working with looks good from the start and you don’t find yourself trying to make something look presentable all while the underlying brand is weak.

In the meantime, I designed several screens for the Science Centre, along with a style guide. This allowed the whole theme to be presented to the team at GSC, before them agreeing that all looked good and build could be commenced.

Build

Following on from the design, I was involved in the build stage of the project too. It was my job to translate the static designs that I’d created into responsive HTML code. By doing this, I allowed the backend team to have modular elements to reference and pick when required. Once the HTML was created, I then worked alongside the technical team to implement the code into the respective content management systems.

Were there any problems?

Upon completion of the project, it is always beneficial to look back and analyse what went well or not so well. For such a large project, you might assume that there would have been several stumbling blocks along the way. However, the client at GSC were such a pleasure to work with and allowed us to do our work. They also educated us along the way with what they wanted to achieve, and as a result, the website has been a success. Any problems that did occur were trivial and as such, I’d answer this paragraph with a resounding – No.

What did I learn?

There were several areas that I had to learn new information about. Mainly, these were:

  • Ensuring the site was accessible for as many people as possible – Checking the design and markup consistently along the project, ensuring that the AA criteria was met throughout
  • Drupal 8 / Magento 2 – This was the first project built using both Drupal 8 and Magento 2 which are both structured differently to their predecessors. Although it was mainly the technical team that built the backend of the site, there was still folder structure to work around from a frontend perpective
  • Science is awesome

The results

In the two months since the September 2017 launch, (and compared to the same period in 2016) the Science Centre has seen the following:

  • 51% increase in overall sessions, which whilst not necessarily specific to the UI/UX, but positive nonetheless
  • 17% decrease in bounce rate indicating that users are finding the interface more engaging and intuitive
  • 52% more page views – indicating that content is easier to discover, and the general browsing experience is positive
  • 55% of users are returning, compared with 30% last year – users were less inclined to come back after their visit last year

Conclusion

The build of the Science Centre website was an enjoyable experience and the end result is really pleasing. I’m happy with how the site turned out. I was glad be involved from start to finish with GSC and the website. We’re now iterating and improving the design to enhance the experience going forward.

Thanks for reading 🙂