To ensure that the LevelUp redesign addressed the training community’s concerns, we needed to understand how they used the current site. We sent a survey to the larger training community and interviewed trainers from different regions. These interviews brought three key considerations to our attention: trainers usually consult LevelUp before a training; the homepage doesn’t provide sufficient guidance to new users; and trainers are unclear on how to update and contribute to the content. There was no space for knowledge-sharing or interaction on the site. These conversations with trainers who actively use the content proved crucial to choosing the right platform and designing a more accessible website.
The next step was helping Internews choose a platform. We connected with content owners from similar projects (Security in a Box, Umbrella App, and Surveillance Self-Defense) to discuss how the different resources could interoperate with each other – see more on this here. To allow users to edit and remix the content, we built the website on Github. The LevelUp content is written in Markdown, which makes edits and community contributions easier to manage than the previous Drupal backend. We used the translation service Transifex for localisation – it’s free for open source projects and takes advantage of an existing user base of translators.
The third step was crafting a user experience design that met the varied needs of the community. We designed a new way to traverse the content and organised the content into different sections to help both new and experienced users.
Clear documentation is critical to making any technical resource sustainable in the long term. Now that the project is no longer managed by a single organisation, we knew that users would need accessible, thorough documentation to keep the site fresh and accurate. We only handed off the project after providing detailed guidance on how to edit and add new content to the platform.
Listening and learning
We learned a lot in this redesign process: how people use the site, when and why trainers consult the content and what they hoped for the future of LevelUp. In the end, one of the most important lessons was that we were neither capable, nor responsible, for fixing every issue raised and each individual concern in the process. Making a shared resource means making compromises and reducing the scope and expectation of what can be accomplished in a short time. No matter how thoughtful a design process can be, there will always be something that is missing. In the future, for projects like LevelUp, we will make sure that our promises are reasonable given the often uncertain future of projects like these.
One of the main reasons LevelUp content is still relevant today is that it was written by talented trainers who have learned from past experiences and sought to make a more sustainable resource. The training community brought LevelUp into this world, and its fate still rests upon the continued engagement of this community. We are sincerely thankful to all of the people who helped make LevelUp what it is today and brought much needed guidance to the redesign process.