May 10, 2004
Army salutes U-M students’ recommendations
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Five University of Michigan School of Information students know what it‘s like to mobilize an army.
Not just any army, the U.S. Army.
The Army adopted seven of 15 recommendations to improve its public information Web site, a portal for news about the service for soldiers’ families, the media and the public. The Army was in the midst of using a consulting firm to revamp the site last fall when the students adopted the Army’s Web site as their information architecture course project. The course is taught by Peter Morville, an adjunct lecturer.
“I‘ve been a professional information architecture consultant for more than 10 years, and I‘m not sure I‘ve ever had a client implement so many major recommendations so quickly,” Morville said. “The Army could have paid $50,000 for these information architecture recommendations, and it would have still been a good investment.”
Students interviewed the Army webmaster, conducted usability tests of the existing Army site, did a comparative analysis of similar organizations’ Web sites and evaluated existing Army pages.
Student Whitney Ross, an Army captain, was the group’s liaison to the webmaster and civilian contractors. Ross and team members Joanna Markel, Marla Gómez, Anthony Abernathy, and Nicholas Johnson worked on the project from September through December, and the Army implemented their suggestions for a March rollout of the new site.
The Army adopted recommendations on general Web page layout design; replacing banners on the home page with a rotating banner; replacing the former “quick link” list with a drop-down menu; reducing the screen space dedicated to local links on some pages; having a search box always visible; maintaining navigation links and style on the search page; and using a better search engine.
“It’s rare that recommendations of this scale are actually implemented, especially when those recommendations are coming from a free source, and a student source at that,” said team member Nicholas Johnson. “It’s well known that the more an organization pays for recommendations, the more likely they are to take them and use them. The fact that they paid nothing and used them is really impressive.”
Contact: Jay Jackson