Analyzing the UX of a Research Site

We’re doing a brief in-site on the science research platform https://scienceandthebigquestions.com/. We’re going to look into the design and layout of the homepage and make some assumptions on what was prioritized and why the design decisions were made. This should give us a good basis for understanding the general “why” of the design of this site.

First let’s take a look at the overall homepage design. The site is a repository for scientific research articles, videos, and audio recordings. It currently houses about 250 different items across dozens of categories. Quite an undertaking to present and deliver neatly and efficiently.

Split Layout and Sizing

My first observation is the split layout. The left side of the layout is primarily for filtering through and searching for content. The right side displays the results.

I appreciate how they’ve embraced the size of the name of the site. It’s already a pretty long name for a website and they fully embrace and highlight the name by making it very large on the page. Something as simple as sizing can speak to how big these questions really are that they are trying to tackle.

Navigation Highlight

Navigation

The navigation is pretty simple overall. A couple of things to note: The “learn more” link at the top of the page leads to the About page. The About page houses an explanation of the site and what it’s mission is. I would assume that this site is new to the scientific community. They prioritized explaining the sites purpose by including 2 links to the About page. There was a need to make sure the user knew what and why the site exists and what it could do for them.

Another thing to note is the “A-Z Index”. They thought to include an option for those who didn’t want to use the filtering system or search bar to find content. It lists out all the content from A to Z. For some users that may be a more straight forward option.

Content Filter Highlight

Content Filters

More than half of the homepage is dedicated to filtering and searching through the content. They currently have 250 records and i’m sure that number will continue to grow. The content stretches across several different scientific disciplines, categories and formats. They did a great job of allowing the user to get directly to the type of content they want to engage with.

To get to Science and Religion videos takes 2 clicks. They could have used drop-downs or some other menu pattern to hide all the options and give a cleaner appearance, but they prioritized getting to the content quicker, over the aesthetics of having to display long lists of categories. That decision creates a much easier experience for the user and removes an unnecessary layer of friction from the process.

Content Card Highlight

Content Cards

They used a pretty standard design pattern of surfacing the content in cards. It gives them the opportunity to expose their organizational system to the user.

The card includes the title, lead-in text, and an icon as the clickable link to get to the content page. (1) This covers several places that a user might want to naturally click to get to the content.

It includes the category of the content (2) and tags (3) as another added level of organization. So hopefully by this point the user can understand that they can find content by category, discipline, or search a tag.

Order Brought to Chaos

This site is a great example of what could have been a nightmare of buried content and opaque content architecture, made neat and tidy by having a transparent organizational system and a simplified split layout.

What insights did you pull from this site? Let me know in the comments.