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Resource app for academic researchers
The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Illinois assists all faculty, staff, and students across campus in their research efforts. Their IT department asked Pixo to lead the design and development of a custom web application that would compile, organize, and maintain an ever-changing list of technology resources from various data sources across the university's huge Urbana-Champaign campus. The goal was to give researchers a single source to search for equipment, training, and advice.
The challenge: Create a search tool that can grow over time
We learned that Research IT needed their new tool to:
- Support powerful and user-friendly search interactions
- Allow for easy content updates
- Offer flexibility for enhancements and evolution over time
- Be reliable and maintainable for long-term operations and updates, such as theme updates to refresh the graphic design when desired
The solution: Prioritize infrastructure first, then iterate
Considering all the client’s needs, we focused on creating a fully customized experience for both front-end and back-end users. For back-end users, the ability to pull data from university APIs and from within the content management system was a priority. For front-end users, our solution also included a robust system for searching and filtering, ensuring user-friendliness and accessibility.
During the first of two phases, we created the technical infrastructure and a basic front-end for the system. The focus was getting all the pieces to connect, including:
- A transactional database
- An information warehouse
- Query APIs
- Supplementary custom import connectors
In the second phase, we iterated on the front-end user interface. Through UX research, design sprints, and testing, we upgraded the UI to allow researchers to browse and filter more easily, based on feedback from campus researchers.
The result: A robust collection of resources
The app houses nearly 1,000 resources to support researchers’ IT needs. People using the app can search by keyword, or browse by the topic they need help with (such as data storage, security, and web hosting). Researchers can also browse by type of resource — including tools and services, events, and training — to find the kind of support they’re looking for.