The last large-scale update of ED.gov occurred in 2015. This redesign reduced the number of homepage links and created more open space to make the site more user-friendly. While the update included several important changes, the design fell short in key areas including overall usability, navigation, a consistent brand feel and its heavy reliance on text. To achieve its goals and further its mission, the organization identified the need to keep pace with the way Americans learn, engage and interact. They issued a public competition seeking a complete redesign of their site to modernize the overall feel and branding and make their content more accessible to users.
By focusing on creating visual hierarchy, visual interest, and a major restructuring of navigation we were able to modernize the look and feel of the site while creating a more usable design to help user quickly access the resources they need without having to dig through several layers of content.
The U.S. Department of Education assists the president in executing his education policies for the nation and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. Their mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. ED.gov is the Department’s main public-facing website, with nearly 15 million users accessing the site in 2019 alone.
This design required finding a marriage of creating a fresh visual look while still complying with the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) guidelines. We responded to this by creating visual interest on content heavy pages by incorporating strong hero images, color blocking techniques, exposed grids, iconography and subtle micro-interactions.
One of the key challenges the organization sought to address was the site's overall presentation and its overwhelming reliance on text. To provide more visual interest and break up the heavy blocks of copy, we used typography as a design element and introduced both hover states and dynamic navigation to make content easier to digest and navigate through.
Innovation means different things to different people. To a government organization, simply updating its contact methods means a resounding impact in communicating with users. Our design choices introduced innovation by setting up appropriate information funnels that enhanced usability.