Structuring Information Architecture of the PPRG’s Climate Opinion Site
How might PPRG site users access PPRG data more easily and smoothly?
Stanford's Political Psychology Research Group (PPRG) publishes research on a variety of topics including the psychology of political behavior, survey research methods, and public opinion on climate change.
PPRG leadership wanted to improve the information architecture of their site hosting 15 years' of public opinion data on climate change.
I was the PPRG Research Assistant tasked with leading the site optimization and revision process. I worked on a team of 2 reporting to 3 supervisors and sharing results and communicating with a lab of 60 people and 9 teams.
My approach for optimizing the site's information architecture included:
Understanding current site visitors' experience navigating the site (in terms of readability, cohesiveness, and flow)
Optimizing findings communication for both scientific and non-academic audiences
Designing a site experience focused on science accessibility and organizational messaging
Understanding the User Experience
Given this, I conducted usability testing with 3 typical users (one college student, one academic professional, and one non-academic professional).
I wanted to assess the experiences of current site visitors.
I collected their feedback by recording their experiences navigating the site and a short survey.
Upon examining my interview findings, I found that the most common pain points in the site navigation process were:
Uncertainty about how information was organized
The scale and origin of findings
Site tabs feeling oversaturated or too long
Given this, I brainstormed and proposed alternate website configurations to optimize the site's information architecture. Specifically, I proposed:
- Visualizing data in clearer, captioned graphs
- Clarifying which survey questions and methodology were attached to which answers
- Reconfiguring site tabs from 9 pages to 12
I created 3 different deliverables for communication across cross-functional audiences.
- All twelve site tabs were planned using lo-fi wireframes I sketched in my notepad.
- I organized questions in the "flare-focus-flare" method, beginning with answers on a general topic (ie, willingness to pay higher taxes for climate protections broadly), and narrowing down to opinions on specific policies (ie, willingness to pay higher taxes for things like greener energy subsidies or electric car manufacturing).
- We also included a link to a site page explaining in detail the methodologies of the survey reported on the site.
I decided to revise findings presentation to include a short content description, a graph, and a link to the question wording.
My revision of the site's information architecture supported the PPRG's broader data replication and accessibility initiatives, but what we did not expect was having our team's work used for a New York Times data release, reaching an even larger audience of researchers and professionals than we expected.
I also presented my research and recommendations on survey design, methodology, and participant retention to the PPRG lab at the end of the summer, further building the center's ability to design powerful, effective surveys.
This project taught me the nitty gritty of optimizing information architecture, especially sharpening my capabilities in data visualization, cross-functional communication, and accessible findings presentation.
Because the PPRG site hosted multiple pages detailing various other research projects, being able to contextualize and quantify findings in the frame of the organization's work was essential to communicating the Climate Public Opinion survey findings. It was really rewarding to rework their information architecture while staying faithful to organizational messaging and brand aesthetics.