Maine Department of Education – Online Needs Analysis

Principles of effective online media

In order to provide the most valuable services to our constituents, the Department’s online experiences should be designed to meet common principles and practices for usability, accessibility, and engagement. Once those principles are achieved, further development can raise the online experience to a higher plateau.

Why is adopting common principles and practices important? Imagine getting in a car and finding the steering wheel in the back seat. Or driving on the left in some towns and the right in others. Or having traffic signals with purple, magenta, and orange lights.

Here are several principles for usability and relevance — from our constituents’ perspective — that can help us provide an effective Web experiences.

Be dependable

  • Access from anywhere: at school, at home, or around the world
  • Access any time, day or night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • Access usable screens in 3 seconds or less with a 1 MBps connection
  • Access critical information during an emergency

Be accessible

  • Access from a variety of devices — laptop, screen reader, tablet, smart phone, appliances
  • Access through a variety of media, including Web, apps, e-mail, text, voice
  • Access via multiple feeds presented on websites, social media, displays

Be intuitive

  • Find what you are looking for, quickly and intuitively
  • Easily navigate to related, connected content by topic, date, or interest
  • Explore up-to-date news, information, data, directories, and activities
  • Interact with engaging and appropriate graphics, imagery, video, and audio

Be usable

  • Access clear, jargon-free content understandable at multiple levels of knowledge
  • Follow clear, step-by-step tutorials through important administrative procedures
  • Complete online activities with minimal training or documentation
  • Participate regardless of ability: visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive

Be personalizable

  • Subscribe to notifications from other teachers and learners about areas of personal interest
  • Mark relevant and valuable topics, events, people, and places for future reference
  • Contact others with similar interests

Be welcoming

  • Feel welcomed by a variety of personable and authentic voices and perspectives
  • Get to know people through online content about shared interests
  • Follow relevant recommendations and contributions of community members

Be collaborative

  • Create cross-disciplinary connections between people, ideas, and events
  • Join dynamic spaces for professional and intellectual collaboration
  • Participate in communities of practice that bridge face-to-face meetings
  • Curate links and annotations to valuable, vetted resources across the Internet

Be inspiring

  • Gain insight into the topics that matter to you
  • Share your passions, with your own voice
  • Contribute to the creation of new knowledge

Processes for effective online media

Behind the scenes, online professionals, support partners, and community members should be able to work together to create, collaborate, and sustain online experiences that meet our constituents’ needs.

Here is an overview of online media roles and responsibilities. The following paper will match these activities with existing and future Maine DOE resources: staff, contractors, and vendors.

A. Governance and direction

Online media experiences are best developed, sustained, and improved within the context of clear governance and direction. Governance concerns the roles, authorities, and responsibilities that integrate the work of team members and the process of resource budgeting. Direction translates organizational vision into optimal online experiences.

Areas of practice include:

  • Identifying and prioritizing constituencies and needs
  • Gathering and evaluating informal feedback and quantitative research
  • Developing online media policies, strategies, and procedures to ensure accuracy, timeliness, clarity, and usabilty of internal and external services, including social and streaming media
  • Presenting goals and achievements to constituents
  • Supervising staff and budget and resolving escalated issues
  • Monitoring developments in the field

B. Information architecture and research

The clear organization of online content is crucial for helping constituents find what they need to know and also for projecting what’s important to the organization, both by the topics that are featured, as well as the way information is related. This work is cyclical, with a need to revisit each subsite periodically as information and activities change over time.

Areas of practice include:

  • Designing and conducting user testing and research
  • Developing domain and subsite architectures, and testing with users
  • Creating clickable prototypes to identify improvements in navigation and findability
  • Clarifying standards and guidelines to improve search engine optimization

C. Interface and interaction design

Interface design is the selection and arrangement of visual, aural, touch, and other elements that connect people via their intelligent devices. Good interface design can help simplify and improve the user experience, including navigation, browser standards, and graphic design. A multi-tiered interface system can help each unit project a distinctive culture while being integral to departmental identity.

Areas of practice include:

  • Evaluating and adopting evolving human/computer interface standards and guidelines
  • Developing personae and metaphors to operationalize constituents’ interests and styles
  • Designing graphic identity patterns, including shapes, palettes, and typography
  • Coordinating translation of interface elements into prototypes for testing and improvement
  • Implementing user interface patterns into coded templates for content platform implementation

D. Content development and production

Effective content development processes encourage partners at all skill levels contribute. Authors update existing content and submit new text, imagery, and multimedia. Editors verify the quality of submitted content according to established standards. Managers develop those standards and coordinate the work of partners: migrating and organizing existing content, assigning new content initiatives, and maintaining the editorial functions of a software content platform.

Areas of practice include:

  • Developing standards for published content and ensuring quality based on those standards
  • Conducting inventories of existing content and managing periodic reviews, updates, archiving, and migration
  • Designating content authors, conducting training sessions, and providing in-person and online coaching
  • Coordinating and delivering content including writing, photography, videography, audio recording, and other emerging content formats
  • Integrating feedback for continuous improvement of content

E. Community stewardship and outreach

Community stewardship transforms existing professional networks into online learning communities, helps sustain conversation until those communities thrive on their own, integrates online and in-person activities, and resolves escalated debates that cannot be resolved by communities themselves.

Areas of practice include:

  • Developing and promoting guidelines for community engagement
  • Listening to the distinct needs, language, and jargon of individual communities
  • Activating and moderating forums, blogs, social media, and other tools to meet those needs
  • Empowering participants to actively support their communities
  • Participating as needed, online and in person, to facilitate groups
  • Mediating disagreements within communities
  • Disengaging when communities can thrive organically

F. Software integration and development

With goals for the online experience in place, software can be evaluated, selected, deployed, and sustained to accomplish those goals. Software integration concerns the administration, upgrading, interoperation, and maintenance of the systems that comprise an online media platform. Software development includes the creation of software code to implement prioritized functions not available in existing packages.

Areas of practice include:

  • Administration of software environments for a content platform, including hosting server management, software installation and upgrades, system backup and recovery, and system integrity and operation.
  • Development of new functions in software including coding, testing, implementation, and maintenance
  • Making sure server and software meet operational minimum standards and resolving issues quickly

Engagement model

Document information

  • Principles and practices – Approved by David Connerty-Marin – 5/11/2011b
  • Project: Maine Department of Education – Online Needs Analysis
  • Executive sponsor: Maine DOE Commissioner Stephen Bowen
  • Communications director: David Connerty-Marin
  • Online media consultant: Jay Collier, The Compass LLC
  • Funding: U.S. Department of Education EDFacts