Spark Experience DNA

Penn State: UX Research & Design

Online education is taking off. Penn State knew they could either lead the way or fall behind.

The Challenge

For over 100 years, Penn State Extension has provided agriculture education, and they knew that the next 100 years would depend on their ability to change with the times -- meeting the growing demand for web-based learning.

To generate buy-in from educators and consumers, Penn State chose SPARK’s research-driven approach to design their groundbreaking online education site.


The Approach

SPARK worked in close partnership with PSU and program partners.

User Research: SPARK set up field offices at various locations to study how customers engage with agriculture education.

UX Research: By using various methods, from tree tests to usability testing, SPARK tested how audiences interacted with the old website and uncovered key weaknesses.

Ideation & Iteration: SPARK developed design concepts and refined them through multiple rounds of rapid prototyping and testing.


The Outcome

We tested over 50 tasks with over 300 customers. The results indicate major improvements due to our customer-centered design process.

Task success rates skyrocketed from 51% to 84%.

Most of all, thanks to SPARK’s research-driven approach, we cut through the politics, inspired alignment, and rallied support for this major change.

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