Redesigning PlantingScience.org: The Role of User Experience Evaluation in Improving a HUBzero Gateway for Plant Science Mentoring

PlantingScience.org, an online mentoring platform, enlisted the help of the Science Gateways Community Institute to conduct a usability evaluation. The process included workflow analysis, heuristic evaluation, comparative analysis, usability testing, and a final report that together have been instrumental to improving how teachers, scientists, and students use the PlantingScience.org online mentoring platform. Key friction points were identified in website navigation, in matching teams of students with appropriate mentors, and in facilitating teacher front-end registration and password management for student users. In this paper, we discuss the process of evaluation that led to identification of these friction areas. We also discuss how the identified problem areas were redeveloped and include feedback from our users about the new features. Other gateways will gain insight into approaches for evaluating website user experience and then how to use that evaluation to generate website changes that improve usability and reduce administrative support, making it possible to serve a much larger user community.