LIS 643: Design Story

The Project


For LIS 643: Information Architecture and Interaction Design at Pratt Institute this semester long project involved creating a prototype for a hypothetical Intrepid website redesign. My design story looks at the different elements that helped inform the final prototype for my group.

Interviewing Users to Create Personas


Part of the process of creating a persona involved the first user research I did for this class. Doing the user research component helped me start thinking about, who is this website for? What elements do users want to see on a website? This helped get my thought process in motion for the next steps of the project and it helped me to keep these questions in mind throughout.

Card Sorting


I found card sorting to be one of the foundational steps of the entire prototype process. I liked the analysis tools in Optimal Workshop (pictured above) and the way they helped visually analyze the data to see similarities between the different user card sorts. This definitely assisted in creating categories to help construct a preliminary site map for the tree test. The user research also helped give us further insight into how users think and might interact with the Intrepid website information.

Tree Test

treetestI set up the tree test for my group based on the analyzed, shared categories we derived from the card sort. At this stage, we began to get an idea of how to organize the enormous amount of information the Intrepid website has to offer and how we might be able to set up a different navigational system for our prototype. Within the navigation, our options were defined by what we learned users thought belonged in certain categories from the card sort.

For both tests I used four different people so it was really great to get those different perspectives about what the website could look like. It helped crystallize awareness of issues like the Tours section and the Get Involved section, which we would later discover had its own down sides.

Site Map


Creating the sitemap on paper as a group helped me visualize what the different categories of navigation were. It was also a really good way as a group to pool the results of our analyzed areas in a non-digital way and to compare anecdotally the results of our tree tests and card sorts.

Competitive Analysis

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I evaluated the homepage portion of the competitors’ websites for this analysis and it really allowed me to focus on an area of a website that is the introduction to the rest of the website. This evaluation taught me one thing I really don’t like about some homepages is all the scrolling. I think it’s important to keep information on the homepage succinct and easy to navigate. I tried to keep this in mind throughout to help inform our prototype.

First Prototype

EVENTS APRIL 18The first prototype provided some very helpful feedback. I had the opportunity to look at the prototype with two very opinionated users and they made me realize the issues with the Get Involved area of the website, which I had thought we did a great job of developing during the sitemap phase. It was really eye opening, in a positive way, to have other people look at something we had become overly comfortable with and poke holes into it.

The Final Prototype

Interestingly, throughout the process the taskflows pretty much remained the same from the first prototype evaluation to the final one. I think this shows that we created decent navigation that carried us throughout the process despite some labeling changes.

ToursFrom all our testing, we definitely tried to stay away from the long scrolling of the current Intrepid site, while focusing more on the content and specific visual elements. This information came from a lot of discussions with users.

Event Calender

The calendar had varying success with usability tests. It went through a few iterations. Initially it started with just day-of details without the full month calendar but my users said they wanted to see a fuller picture of events.


The Get Involved area saw the most “controversy” with users. It was always meant to include membership but user feedback made us realize that Get Involved did not properly indicate membership. The name was meant to be inclusive but ended up just being confusing.

Final Thoughts

The process really came together in the end. All the steps contributed in their own way to final prototype, which is a clean and easy to navigate. Here are the links to the prototypes:



More Library Spaces

Now that I’m taking a stroll down (recent) memory lane I started thinking about more library spaces. This is an unfair match up but: Watson Library at the Met and Pratt’s Brooklyn campus library.

I took a class at the Met and had the opportunity to see the stacks at Watson, though do no actual research in them. (When I went back to do research, I realized most people don’t get the run of the building…I was a little disappointed to learn that, though it makes sense since their collection is pretty amazing)

As to the Pratt stacks,I really had no reason to go to the Pratt Brooklyn campus until last summer. I was researching a paper after I went to Prague with UNC so that I could get credit for the class. 635781877407055481-1657637445_57a5Pratt is known primarily as an art and architecture school so imagine my surprise that they had books on Rudolf II and cryptography (yes, these both featured in my paper, Google “Voynich Manuscript” if you want to know more…or maybe don’t).

Summer is a decidedly slow season at the Pratt Brooklyn library, which is both good and bad. Good because you pretty much have the stacks to yourself. Bad when you start thinking about what if you accidentally dropped your cellphone down one of the holes between the floors that are oddly translucent. And then you start thinking about how non-solid the floors seem…O.O

The Pratt library gets some sunlight. The Watson stacks are all internal with some of those narrow staircases between floors (kind of why I thought of Pratt the first time I was at Watson). But no one cares about the lack of sunlight because it’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art! You’re not really there to look at the decor (though the main reading room where we have class is above ground and quite nice looking).

I also probably know more about the Watson’s collection then Pratt’s because I’m taking a class there and they have some pretty cool artist books. Would I know how to find those on my own? Not on your life! But when you have a librarian selecting highlights to show you, it adds a nice perspective.


Library Spaces

It’s funny how you go to library school (while working full time) and you plan to write blog posts and suddenly it’s your last semester and you’re like, “whoa”. But it’s currently “spring break” (i.e. no assignments due) at Pratt and I recently had the opportunity to visit some library spaces. It got me thinking about how much I like spaces. Or I should really say that I like visiting spaces I’ve never been. I like seeing inside spaces I walk by everyday but have never been inside.

1408056126962Of course I didn’t take any pictures but luckily NYU can be relied upon to have pictures of their library. I didn’t see a ton of the student spaces but with the Pratt UX club (which ASIS&T Pratt helped support, btw)  we got to see their UX spaces. The public UX space is really a box that looks out onto the NYC equivalent of a shed with odds and ends you keep just incase you might need them. Which is to say it was a side street with grating over it and there were several pieces of broken grating and ladders stacked up.

However, their interior offices looked a lot like a fun start up with lots of drawing on whiteboard and glass walls. They had just moved into the new office space a few weeks prior but it looked really bright and inviting.

The student spaces seemed open and there were a lot of them. Not a ton of natural light unfortunately, but very modern looking. There was also this gorgeous screening throughout the interior of the library that I admired as we walked around. Then as we were leaving someone mentioned that it was there to prevent students from jumping >< Suddenly less gorgeous, more incredibly functional.

I have not really explored the design for the new Smith College library but I remember as an undergrad finding the main Neilson library super gloomy. The social science books I needed were in a poorly lit sub level that seemed like no one ever went there. There may not have been a layer of dust covering everything but it had that impression. I actually once took a book out that wasn’t in their electronic catalog. It was probably purchased when it was published in the 1950s and no one ever took it.

I do have some fond memories of the Neilson library, mostly related to celebrity sightings, such as my first year when I saw Ann M. Martin on a panel about writing with other alumna. And then there was that time when I went back for my 5 year reunion and was going up the spiral staircase while James Franco was coming down it. One day I’ll have to go back and see how they’ve upgraded it.

Is it a Bird or a Plane? No, it’s Michael Keaton!

BirdmanThere’s no denying that Michael Keaton is at home in Birdman. The last movie I probably saw him in was Batman, way back when. He nails the grizzled, washed up actor on the head (and according to all the interviews I’ve seen, he’s a much happier person in real life, which is good to know). Similarly, Edward Norton is great as an egotistical, “serious” actor.

You’ve probably seen the picture of Norton in his underwear, or even a later incident of Keaton in his tighty whities. And I can’t help but think how a large part of this film is about masculinity. The women are nothing characters, played by good actresses, yes. But they are merely foils for uncomfortably aging men.

Keaton wears several wigs when on stage. To help highlight his character’s age and naturally receding hairline, a big point is made of him constantly taking off the wigs whenever he’s off stage. He also literally talks to a picture of his former self, Birdman. Depending on how you interpret the magic realism of the film (my grandmother, “He’s nuts.” or my aunt, “I liked that it was weird.”) probably reflects on how unhinged you believe Keaton’s character to be. I chose to see everything as existing in his own head, years of different substances taking their toll on his psyche, already weakened by lack of success as a “serious” actor.

Norton plays the actor Keaton’s character wishes he could be: respected and clearly gifted on stage. But it doesn’t take long for the audience to see the cracks in his persona as well, as he doesn’t even try to hide his preference to work while intoxicated. Emma Stone’s character might be a painfully thin, recovering drug addict fresh out of rehab, but she seems to be doing fairly OK compared to Norton and Keaton.

The movie’s subtitle is “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” but it doesn’t seem like anyone in this movie is ignorant. They are all a bit too all knowing for me,  even if all they really know is about their personal failures. I could have used an extra dimension to any of the side characters to take away from the bitterness of the lead males. But then, there was a guy walking around in a ridiculous bird suit. I guess the director figured dashes of absurdity would lighten the mood. But it goes back to whether you think it’s all in Keaton’s head or not, if you think the ending is hopeful or traumatic. I’m clearly in the latter camp.





Adventures with Arepas

Let me start by saying that my version of arepas might not pass muster with a true Colombian or Venezuelan. My arepas tend to fall apart in the pan and seem more like pancakes with stuff in them. But they are still pretty darn tasty. And they are still made with my new best friend, masarepa:


Now I did not just learn to make arepas overnight, my friends. No, I have a new cookbook in my life as well, Viva Vegan! by Terry Romero and she taught me the difference between all them confusing types of corn meal at the super market. Because there is a difference. I’ve cooked with masa harina before and it definitely tastes different than masarepa (see? it even has arepa in the name! genius). vivavegan1

While I eat dairy and eggs, I prefer using vegan cookbooks. I find too many cookbooks that cater to lacto-ovo veggies rely heavily on cheese in the recipes. Maybe it’s because I grew up in household where the secret ingredient to making everything taste better was cheese melted on top but I don’t think adding cheese to everything is that interesting. It may be tasty but it’s kinda boring. As the title says, I was looking for aventura.

I’m generally terrified of making tamales, they seem very laborious for something you can just buy at Trader Joe’s. I was worried arepas would be similar but based on Viva Vegan, I think I’m sold on the Colombian kind (they are much quicker and you don’t have to bake them in an oven). Many times when I cook, I want to eat whatever it is RIGHT NOW. And I know how to make pancakes, so actually arepas are very similar.

I also had some tempeh lying around the fridge so I started with a recipe Terry calls “Arepas de Avocado Pepiado” or Sexy Avocado Arepas.  Are they sexy? What do you think?


As I prefer more instant arepasatisfaction (yea, I just went there), I ended up making a different type of arepa than the recipe called for ( i.e. I made the Col0mbian ones with corn and cheese…yes, I said cheese and by that I meant Daiya *holds up honorary vegan card*). Also, the recipe called for jicama and I wasn’t entirely sure what a jicama looks like. I know I’ve eaten them but not sure I ever bought a whole one, so since the dressing for the tempeh included vegan mayo, I substituted pre-shredded cabbage and carrots.  (I hate real mayo with a passion and the only kind of coleslaw I will eat is with vegan mayo, so it was an easy change of ingredients for me and one that I like)

I added in some sexy avocado and some pre-made peach mango salsa et voila! I had food even the cat wanted to eat. DSC00513

* And no, she was not allowed to eat my lunch.

Old Man of the Mountain

annapurnaI’ll admit when I saw that Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally were appearing a two-person play off Broadway, my first thought was “Ron Swanson and Tammy 2!” Like most Parks and Recreation devotees, I know the two are married in real life and it’s always a laugh seeing them play exes.

In Annapurna they play exes of a different sort. There is some comedic exchange between Ulysses, a poet who has retreated to a remote area of the Colorado Rockies, and his ex-wife, Emma, who left him 20 years ago with their son, without explanation. But underneath their banter and occasional reminiscing of the old days lies the real hurt of why Emma left, a truth Ulysses claims not to remember.

I saw the play 3 days after it opened in NYC at the Acorn Theater and it’s a nice, intimate theater. The play itself is about 90 minutes, so while at times the script seemed to meander, it always headed back to “that night”. Nick Offerman is great as a grizzled, jaded man who insists he just wants to be left alone. And Megan Mullally is equally entertaining as the woman who left him, trying to simultaneously mother him/fix his life and call him to task for his wrongs. It’s kind of a love story delayed but without a real resolution. The focus always goes back to their son, who never appears on stage, but is really what binds them together, however tenuously, after all these years.

Maybe Mullally and Offerman play the same characters they always do when they appear together but it is really fun to watch them argue, make up, and then start yelling at each other all over again.


Still Strangers

mistakenforstrangersMistaken for Strangers is an entertaining, if uneven film. If you are a fan of The National, than you already know the soundtrack is great. In fact, my first crticism is that there isn’t enough of their music in the film. There are plenty of snippets of live shows but the film makes a wrong turn (in my opinion) when it tries to find a narrative and that narrative settles on the lead singer of the band’s brother, also the director of the film.

Tom, the brother, is an interesting protagonist…sort of. It’s not hard for audience members, and no doubt un-famous fans of the band, to relate to the fact that Tom feels like a failure. His brother is super famous….and he lives at home with his parents in Ohio *cue ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ playing in the background*.

Whatever his circumstances are, whether he harbors dreams of hitting it rich and lives there by choice or because he circumstances have led him there, it’s not entirely clear. But as someone who is unemployed it’s easy to sympathize. Compared to his brother, Tom feels like a nothing. Like Tom, I do feel like a failure some days. Too bad I don’t have a famous brother I can follow around and make a film about!

You see what I just did there? I made this about me. And that is kind of my whole disappointment with Mistaken for Strangers. It’s not really about the band or even Tom and his brother Matt’s relationship. It’s about Tom. Who I’m sure is a nice guy, who is genuine about feeling adrift and lost in this life. So while after seeing this movie, I could probably now recognize members of the band on the street (and some live in my neighborhood!) I didn’t really get a full picture of the life of the band on tour. Yes, you might say, plenty of documentaries cover that. But I’m almost left wondering, what is that something that makes The National unique?

At one point the band manager says they need to make sure the film doesn’t show the band in a bad light and as a result, the film shows them in a bland light. Which goes back to my first criticism. If you like the band what makes them stand out is their music and I really would have rather seen more live footage of The National than footage of Tom and Matt’s mom taking how creative Tom was a child.

Bleeding Kansas

goodlordbird The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, read by Michael Boatman

This book won the National Book Award but I was still really unsure about the premise. There’s a boy who ends up living as a girl for several years? And he was at Harper’s Ferry during the John Brown raid? Okkkk….

But the author, no doubt realizing it sounds like a whopper, plays it off really well as a tall tale. Henry/Onion the kid at the center of the tale, always tells things like he sees it. John Brown believes he is liberating Onion, a young girl, from slavery but Henry just wants to get home to everything he knows. There are a lot of complicated relationships represented in this story and many sides of slavery. Or maybe there are no sides to slavery, just how people perceive it when they are enslaved and when they are free. It’s never portrayed as a good thing but we do see it as a familiar thing to some slaves, who just want to make it to next week, never mind making long term plans.

The Harper’s Ferry Raid is credited as a step on the march toward the Civil War and emancipation. McBride, and Boatman as narrator, bring John Brown to life as a slightly insane, fervently religious man who believes strongly that God has called on him to end slavery. There are groups of believers but more groups of detractors, which is ultimately why the Harper’s Ferry Raid was not the populist uprising Brown hoped it would be.

The raid is actually only a small part of The Good Lord Bird. Onion is born in Kansas Territory, which was itself at war over whether to be a free or slave state. There’s some interesting Wikipedia reading on “Bleeding Kansas”. The Kansas situation seems almost as complicated as America’s acceptance of slavery for so long. James McBride does an entertaining job of capturing a part of American history that’s part Western, part comedy, part freedom tale, and constantly makes you think, did he really just say that?

LBJ All the Way!

lbjI am young enough not to have been alive when Lyndon B. Johnson was president. In fact, being from Massachusetts, I always figured he was just the runner up to JFK and nothing more. (Certainly the Kennedys thought so!) So when I visited his childhood home in Texas a few years ago, I was impressed to learn that he actually had a very long and interesting political career. I had no idea he was so instrumental in passing Civil Rights laws, for example.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the basis of “All the Way”, so history nerd that I am, I really enjoyed all the politicking and back room talk. Bryan Cranston, wearing prosthetic ears that don’t really add or subtract from his performance but are a bit funny, embodies a politician who like most presidents has to try and sweet talk everyone into doing what he wants. A little compromising here, a little promise for the future that may not be true there, etc. You’re left wondering what politicians really believe in beyond their own success.

LBJ, in the play, is all for civil rights but he’s also a party man and doesn’t want to lose the Southern democrats. The play covers the space of a few months from JFK’s assassination to LBJ running for re-election (“LBJ all the way!” was his slogan), here’s what we get: There’s Martin Luther King Jr. and a variety of other black activists, some who don’t want to rock the boat and others who don’t think MLK is doing enough for the cause. Then randomly, it seems, there’s J. Edgar Hoover who doesn’t seem to really like LBJ that much but he loves surveillance, so he’ll just keep spying on citizens because. Even if nothing much happens from his spying during the play, other then to show that LBJ was complicit in monitoring MLK. Then there’s Lady Bird Johnson and an assistant who get a few lines here and there. This is really LBJ’s play and with Bryan Cranston carrying the show that’s a-ok.

At 3 hours, they probably could have cut some of the less interesting stories but though I heard some snoring around me (it was a matinee, so mostly people alive during LBJ, now retired…also apparently George Takei was there in the audience, though I didn’t see him), I actually found the second act more engaging than the first. I didn’t even look at my watch. The true test of how long a play is, right?