USA Today gains insight from IST study

Representatives from USA Today recently received insight from a group of Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) students on how to improve the publication’s Collegiate Readership Program website. IST students Adam DiIorio, Jeffrey Gerace, Tim Nguyen and Brandon Swartz conducted a study on the usability and aesthetics of the site as part of their work in IST 331, Organization and Design of Information Systems: User and System Principles, with Olivier Georgeon, a postdoctoral researcher in the college.

Following their analysis, the group met with USA Today to propose their suggestions. “While the design is good, our group felt that our recommendations would increase both the accessibility of the page and the overall chances of its success,” Swartz said.

“They were very intrigued and pretty agreeable,” Nguyen said. “Some (of the suggestions) they had previously noticed and some were new to them.

“We got a lot of real-world experience,” Nguyen said of the opportunity. The group learned to work with the task-at-hand and make improvements from what a company provides.

The students chose USA Today’s Collegiate website for their project based on Georgen’s guidance to analyze a credible and well-known site. The group utilized skills they had acquired through classroom instruction and lab activities in IST 331 to conduct the study.

After viewing the site, the students determined that a large portion of the site was unused space. They tested five participants on their ease at navigating around the site to complete three different tasks and asked for their comments.

Users typically had similar problems when navigating the website, and often began the search at the wrong spot on the page, they found. Other suggestions the group made included:

  • Moving buttons along the navigation bar as well as moving featured sections to ease navigation.
  • Creating drop-down menus solidified with dark backgrounds and lighter text.
  • Changing the text color of the sections on the newswire to create more contrast between them.
  • Minimizing gray space to the sides of the text and separating the sections more.
  • Changing the background to one solid color or adding more gradation if two or more shades are used.
     
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Last Updated June 22, 2010