QIP Creates Accessible Web Design for Department of Education Contest
Looking to showcase its team’s skills in web design, QIP recently entered a contest to redesign the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) website.
The goal of the ED.gov Redesign Challenge, open from March 31 to June 15, was to modernize ED’s public-facing website. “The Department is not seeking a run-of-the-mill refresh but rather a creative redesign that maximizes user experience,” according to the contest website, “and proposes new innovations in layout, typography, animation, illustration, video and photography, and other modern advances.”
The project was a true team effort for QIP. Creative Director Leigh Huster managed the project and wrote much of the proposal. Graphic Designers Jessica Flynn and Min Yang developed a new color palette, while Jessica did most of the design work. The writing and editing team worked on content strategy. Denise Lawson, user experience and training expert, gave her expertise in ensuring the design was fully compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires all federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. QIP Proposal Manager Mary Barron, who was the proposal lead, reviewed all the work and submitted the finished entry to ED.
In 2017, QIP assisted with the redesign of ED’s Institute of Education Sciences’ website, which Leigh Huster said made the ED.gov Redesign Challenge a good fit for the company and its team members’ skill sets.
“My goal was to make the ED website look more updated and modern and clean and easy to use and very appealing, but also easy for all different kinds of users that go to the ED website for different purposes, to find their way through what they need immediately,” she said. “That was my reasoning behind how I organized the homepage and the pages.
“As for the aesthetic, I wanted to keep it somewhat similar to the colors of ED, stick with their branding but also make it more cutting edge.”
The homepage provides entry points for three types of users—student or parent, teacher or administrator, and researcher—and a fourth option that allows the user to search for whatever they are looking for. A horizontal navigation bar across the top of every page allows the user to visit any part of the site and includes a search option. The homepage also highlights news, featured content, messages from the secretary of education and links to ED’s social media channels.
Accessibility, including the proper color contrast and font sizes, and consistency, such as making all links clearly identifiable, were important parts of the design process.
“A big part of this design work was making it accessible,” Leigh said, “having a fully compliant, accessible site. That goes into the design and how it’s laid out.”
That naturally fell in line with the user-driven approach the team was striving for.
“We’re making the design look and feel cohesive, consistent with their branding and enhanced, but also striving for this consistency in how images appear and how links appear,” Leigh said.
Jessica said using Adobe XD allowed her to take user experience to a new level in the design.
“It’s a more up-to-date user experience tool,” she said. “It’s a fairly new profession, user experience, and we added that more to QIP’s capabilities than ever before with this project.”
Leigh said this experience will be useful in future work the company takes on. QIP has developed websites before, but this time the team wanted to focus on accessibility more than ever.
“I think there’s a lot of potential in us helping web designers with creating visually engaging and accessible designs,” Leigh said. “This is a way of bridging that. I think that it will definitely create more possibilities and opportunities for us in our future work.”