User research, concept development, product management, wireframing


Conner Hunihan (Product Manager, UX Design)
Kathy Lee (Researcher)
MIGHTYminnow (Design Lead and Development)


16 weeks

Essential Questions

How might innovation research be presented in a way that's digestible and resonant with the general public?

How might the design of the platform galvanize researchers to participate?

Conducting an email campaign to get our hands on content

The team faced an immediate hurdle in acquiring content for the platform. To resolve this, an email campaign was designed and sent to over 300 Principal Investigators (PIs) and co-PIs. The email directed users to a Typeform, who’s questionnaire automatically populated a spreadsheet, cleaning the data as it was submitted. This enabled the development team to move content onto the platform much more quickly than originally scoped.

A publishing platform? A social network? Or a marketing tool?

While the initial focus of the project was to design a publishing platform for policy research, interviews with users suggested alternative motives. For example, many PIs spoke of their interest in keeping tabs on colleagues. University research teams also expressed a need to promote themselves, as a unit, beyond their immediate academic circles. Staff also wanted the site to advertise the success of the SciSIP program, and to use the platform to reach potential applicants.

  • Purely publishing & marketing

    An information architecture that focuses on core concepts of the SciSIP program and funded research was mocked up and shared with administrators for feedback. Immediately, the team realized that PIs needed to be featured more prominently.

  • Research + Community + Program

    The final structure of the site places equal emphasis on research content, the community of PIs, and the SciSIP program. The exercise also helped refine the categorization schema of research.

Wireframing to refine feature functionality and content representation

Research, community, and program content are all very different in nature, so wireframe prototypes were created to craft the nuance in where – and how – content is surfaced to users.

Handing design over to MIGHTYminnow

With the core information architecture and basic site functionality defined, design and development efforts were handed over to MIGHTYminnow. They created a working prototype (left) and brought the platform to life in through multiple, higher-fidelity design iterations (right).

The finished product

The Science and Innovation Hub (SIH)launched in the fall of 2018. It is actively managed by the Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership with ongoing support from the National Science Foundation.