The Austin Community College (ACC) Adult Basic Education Department website serves adults who struggle with reading, writing, and math. Unfortunately their website used very large words, departmental jargon, and was not accessible.

Here is the homepage before and after the site redesign:

BEFORE: Homepage Pre-Redesign

The department serves mostly students who are learning English or studying to pass the GED test. Both groups had trouble figuring out what the department offered and how to sign up.

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AFTER: Homepage Post-Redesign

The department’s offerings are clearly posted and there is color coding so low literacy students know which part of the site they’re in.

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Fixing the content (and how it broke)

A large part of the problem was the confusing, repetitive, and contradictory text but it wasn’t as easy to solve. Because everyone in the department wanted a voice, everyone had their message directly on the homepage. Over the next few weeks I met with all the stakeholders first individually and then as a group to see what students needed to know to sign up for classes.

The site was hardcoded as straight HTML, PHP, and CSS. Almost all of the CSS was “inline”, which means that if I wanted to make a simple change to a color, I would have to make it in every single page on the site, which would take hours. I bypassed this by re-coding templates for the site and creating global style sheets so changes could be made site-wide from a single location.

Here is an example of the GED Class page before and after the changes:


BEFORE: GED Enrollment Page Pre-Redesign

The website doesn’t explain what the classes do, the times and dates. The text looks almost like an internal document that employees might refer to..

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AFTER: GED Enrollment Page Post-Redesign

Now students can enroll online or come in if they have questions. The enrollment process is clearly explained with an image of each step.

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