Oregon Coast Aquarium: A Vastly Educational Oceanscape Network
The Oregon Coast Aquarium saw a unique opportunity to engage youth in exploring the natural world in a new online application called the Oceanscape Network. Part resource, part homework tool, part experiential app, the Oceanscape Network aims to connect kids and teenagers to science and nature. (Think encyclopedia of all things ocean.) But to develop this comprehensive site was no small undertaking. To make it a true network, we needed to create an application that would successfully enable functionality for the three main users of the site: teachers managing their classes, youth completing a scientific inquiry and using the network as a guide, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium staff keeping content not only fresh and engaging, but also organized and intuitive.
We started our design strategy by identifying personas and mapping the goals of the project. While the Aquarium had its own visual designer, we informed design through the interaction design stage with wireframes of the network’s public site, Explore and Experience, as well as the private site Educate, an online tool for students to do a scientific inquiry with their teacher’s review. To manage all of the content, we also created a custom content management system (CMS) tool for the admins of the network. This gave them almost complete control of the dynamic information with the ability to upload copy, images, videos, slideshows, and promos to the entire site. Once the visual designs came back, our team coded the front-end portion and linked it all in the back-end.
The public site is now filled with rich content, allowing for easy exploration of all of the natural inhabitants of the land and sea. The Explore and Experience encyclopedic pages inspire youth to investigate and report on their own via helpful tips such as special landmarks to visit, activities to participate in, or simple tools to share stories and photos. Via Educate, teachers can organize content and encourage students to walk through a scientific inquiry, with the site giving them step-by-step instructions along the way. All the while, Oregon Coast Aquarium staff have an easy tool and platform to add content, which has allowed them to engage youth in exploring nature and visiting landmark places on the Oregon Coast.