Too often, educational experiences suffer from low-quality UX. My team at HMH designed this program completely from scratch to better serve the needs of modern-day students. Science Dimensions is a national science program for K-12 students and teachers. It offers innovative solutions for digital instruction. The program empowers students and educators with unique digital experiences that are explicitly designed for learning about science, so every grade's experience feels intuitive and uniquely tailored to users' needs.
About my role
As a lead digital designer for the K-2 grade band, my focus was on designing immersive interactive patterns to make lesson content exciting and approachable for young learners.
Guided user experience
Early in this project's development, user testing suggested that K-2 students would respond well to a sequenced, full-screen UI that broke lesson content into introductory, familiarization, and review phases. My team and I designed and implemented a uniquely linear user flow based on this model to support the needs of young learners. This format inspired the creation of a library of interactive patterns designed specifically for highly sequenced lesson content.
Age-appropriate user flow
In designing this UI, my team and I prioritized simplicity. Minimizing distractions and avoiding visual clutter is key to designing for this age group. The user flow is highly linear while still allowing students to revisit concepts introduced throughout the lesson. This balance helps them focus while empowering them to dig deeper into lesson material that they find particularly interesting.
An audio-centric experience
At any level, science education introduces a plethora of new terminology. This is especially challenging for young learners, who are still forming their reading skills. To support them, my team designed Science Dimensions as an audio-centric experience. All lesson content is read aloud to students while simultaneously being presented as on-screen text via closed captioning. Every interaction in the pattern library includes auditory guidance and feedback, so students are supported from the time a new concept is introduced, all the way through consolidation in lesson review. This focus on audio results in a much more user-friendly, accessible experience for young learners.
Testing against assumptions
At the outset of this initiative, I helped pioneer a brand new user testing process at HMH. It was crucial that we test Science Dimensions prototypes early and often—with actual students. Through scientific test moderation, data collection, and analysis, we garnered insights that informed the long-term design strategy of this and future projects. Here are a few things we learned:
Students expect age-appropriate design
Our plan to create uniquely styled interactions per grade band was validated when we discovered students' sensitivity to the UI. Young test subjects frequently shared positive comments about the age-appropriateness of the interface, while older students were sensitive to UI elements that downplayed their grade level by 'feeling' too young.
Students intuit new digital interactions
Young students rarely struggled to understand new interactions in the Science Dimensions application. They repeatedly demonstrated an innate sense of understanding when using our library of interactive patterns. This was an encouraging discovery that pointed to the success of our designs, and helped inform their evolution.
Young students struggle with scrolling
One of the most crucial discoveries of early testing was specific to the K-2 grade band: young users often struggle with scrolling. To address this, we redesigned the UX specifically for the K-2 grade band to be built around a completely unique user flow, unlike anything we'd previously created.
Young students struggle with reading
Unsurprisingly, our qualitative data revealed notable friction around the on-screen text. Science content is complex and often outpaces young learners' reading abilities. This information helped shape the audio-centric nature of the Science Dimensions UX.
An extensive interaction library
A core feature of Science Dimensions is its diverse library of over 100 interactive pattern variations. The program's unique user flow enables rich interactions that comprise an engaging learning experience without overwhelming users. Interactions never compete with lesson content—they reinforce it. Some select interactive patterns are detailed below.