Food Allergy Academy is an ecommerce learning management system (LMS) that I built for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). The purpose of this system is to house FARE’s suite of elearning courses on allergy safety in the college food service environment and allow the user to access both free and paid content. The system provides a streamlined user experience with the ability for users to register to create their own accounts, access a customized dashboard, view learning paths, use a dynamic search feature, preview and purchase courses. It is built on the Thought Industries content management system platform, and on the backend allows the administrator to manage learners, roles, run reports on user data and customize all aspects of the system. Project is currently in progress and has not gone live yet.
See a detailed description of my user centered design process (UCD) below.
To plan out the system, I followed a user centered design process. I began with the discovery phase. In addition to researching FARE’s existing educational content on their website, foodallergy.org and their two existing elearning trainings, I set out to understand the competition by doing a competitive analysis. FARE’s elearning trainings have three main competitors: AllerTrain, the National Restaurant Association, and TAP Series. I visited each LMS, tested all of their relevant courses, and wrote up an analysis of each group of offerings.
Then, I set out to perform my stakeholder interviews. Shortly before I began my work at FARE, the Program Manager formed an advisory council of Registered Dieticians (RDs) from universities all over the country. These RDs have firsthand knowledge of what the food service departments in the college space are looking for from staff trainings, as well as the specific audience sectors that we need to serve. I interviewed each of the seven member for an hour each. I recorded the interviews and wrote up a report synthesizing my findings.
Competitive analysis and stakeholder interviews complete, I knew I needed to get in touch with the potential end users of the platform. I attended The National Association of College & University Food Services conference in Rhode Island as an exhibitor with a colleague. I talked to the many attendees who came up to our booth for information and asked them to fill out a survey. The survey was attitudinal in nature and the purpose of which was to measure our audience’s thoughts and beliefs about online training. The purpose was also to create a core group of users willing to participate prototype testing when the time came. People were very friendly and willing to help.
Now that our external stakeholders had been established (the College Advisory Council of RDs) it was time to establish an internal group of stakeholders to gain approval and buy-in. I started and ran a bi-weekly meeting and invited the VP of Education, VP of Marketing & Engagement, our National Programs Manager, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing & Operations, Senior Manager of Brand Marketing and the Senior National Director of Advocacy. It was important for me to get feedback from all different perspectives. For our first meeting, I presented my initial wireframes, and we discussed what elements and content were important to include. This enabled me to begin the requirements gathering process and begin incorporating feedback.
Additionally, I hosted a card sorting activity to figure out the taxonomy of the website. I conducted both an in-person card sorting activity with my group of internal stakeholders, and a virtual card-sorting activity with our advisory council using Proven by Users.
Participants of both card sorts were enthusiastic. I collected some surprising insights, and from the data I gathered I was able to build the navigation structure for the LMS.
After a firm understanding of the requirements and gathering multiple rounds of feedback on my wireframes, I moved directly into building a live prototype of the system using our content management system, Thought Industries.
Pieces of the system I built out include a homepage, learner dashboard, dynamic search functionality, sample content, learner pathways, about pages, support features, and a purchase flow. The backend allows the administrator to manage learners, roles, run reports on user data and customize all aspects of the system.
I’m still in the phase of collecting feedback on the system and updating it in an iterative design process. The next step is to hire a copywriter to write key pieces of content like the tagline on the homepage, description for each course, descriptive about text and introduction to the support contact form.
The system has not gone live yet.