Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc (friends call me Sebi)

PEOI

March - June 2008
Sebi Tauciuc, volunteering
usability evaluation, information architecture, web ui design

Context

I found PEOI through a web volunteering website, liked the cause it was serving, saw there was a lot to improve about it and decided to offer my design services, for free.

Problem

PEOI ( Professional Educational Organization International) offers course materials, teaching and certification to individuals who lack the resources for proper higher education. The materials are created through the help of volunteers, usually teachers or professionals who are willing to contribute their knowledge to a good cause.

Peoi website when I started

The most obvious problem at PEOI was the complete lack of usability of the website, which, at its worst, made it extremely hard for the 'authors' (people trying to offer their knowledge for free!) to create and share course material.

There was plenty of proof of people's frustrations with the website, and a usability study I performed confirmed some of the biggest issues.

Solutions

We formed a volunteers 'Web Design' team to handle the project. In order to gain trust, we decided to start small and first improve the face of the website (the public area), and then go deeper, into the registered user area.

We first analyzed the content and compared it to the scope of PEOI, and got rid of what wasn't needed. Then we reorganized it for more clarity.

old site map analyzednew sitemap draft

After that, we looked at the layout, decided on one that would be suitable and organized the content using it.At the end, I proposed a few look and feel options for the home page and menu.

home page proposal

menu proposal

menu proposal

In the meanwhile, I was also doing more usability evaluations and giving design advice regarding the registered area, for urgent problems that needed immediate improvement.

Real problem

After some time, I discovered the real problem of PEOI, which was much harder to fix: the initial development of the website had been done some 15 years before, and one main purpose had been to allow further development with no ftp access needed. This had added a thick layer of complexity to the whole system (imagine a really bad CMS). There was basically just one person who had some idea of how to modify the website, and he was working 8 hours trying to improve it. It was virtually impossible to make any significant changes. I tried to explain the problem as I saw it, and the answer I got was that the website was quite good, except for some small issues. I was not able to make further progress in the dialog, so I decided to move on to another project.