The mission of the Stone Centre at UCL (University College London) is to advance research and teaching to provide a clear, accessible understanding of the causes of wealth inequality, and its economic and political consequences.
The centre pairs up the CORE project (an existing Bravand client), which is changing economics education globally to a focus on the most important problems faced by our societies, with the research powerhouse of the UCL Economics Department.
As a publisher of original research, and distributor of curated research from other similar-minded sources, researchers and academics are the centre’s key audience groups. However, the Stone Centre at UCL’s key point of difference from the other seven Stone Centres around the world, is that it makes education and research equal partners. It develops research into accessible education materials that instructors use to teach, students use to learn and anyone with an interest in economics might want to understand.
So, we have:
- researchers and academics, primarily interested in accessing published research
- and instructors, students and the interested public, primarily interested in education materials
The Co-Directors of the Stone Centre at UCL, Wendy Carlin and Imran Rasul wanted to ensure that users coming to the site to access research were made aware that educational materials had been produced from that research, and were encouraged to engage with it. Similarly, their vision was that users coming to the site to access educational materials were made aware of the research that underpinned it, and were encouraged to engage.
Giving both research and education equal weighting, ensuring not to demarcate one from the other and in fact coaxing users into journeys between the two was a top priority of this brief.
There are seven other Stone Centres around the world, but none is particularly well known outside of academic circles. They don’t serve as a great shop front or showcase, and are very research-focussed, which limits their appeal.
The Stone Centre at UCL wanted to break that mould, to create a simple, clean and engaging experience that served as a great showcase for their rich content, in a way that would appeal to a broader range of users, including the interested public.
We kicked things off, as always, with user research, getting to know our target audiences, their experience of using other websites that publish and distribute research, their goals, their pain points, journeys, what was important, good, bad, that sort of thing. This gave us an essential foundation that underpinned our approach to design.
Armed with this insight we mapped out user journeys and UX wireframe designs, which we put into a simple prototype and tested with some of our users. A few tweaks here and there and we were on to creative design!
The key requirements of our design brief were:
- Ensure the close integration of research and teaching - this being the overall key objective of the website
- Led by the content it will host and user journeys, not by creative design
- Not be too reliant on imagery - the team at CORE were well aware of the challenges of sourcing relevant imagery to fit with written content
- Simple, intuitive, uncluttered
- Look like it comes from the same stable as the CORE website
- Feature one specific image that painted a stark real world picture of wealth inequality
Following the initial crayon work, we once again tested, and re-tested our work and getting some valuable insight into how we could make it easier for users to find what they needed and ensuring that we met that cross-referencing core element of our brief.
Once users and client were happy, it was on to the build. For this site, we used Webflow.
The site went live early 2022 and since then we’ve worked with the Stone Centre on a number of tweaks to optimise the user experience, as well as a series of new features and components.