design research

JMU’s Health Policy Initiative

This website project was part of a grant with a team of five faculty members at James Madison University with a goal of educating the community on health policy. The goal of the initiative is to educate the community about JMU’s health-related civic engagement in the community and the world.

The Problem

As the lead project designer, I worked with various stakeholders to conduct information gathering sessions. While a relatively new initiative from James Madison University — the Health Policy Collaborative had little visibility and lacked a dedicated website.


I conducted research which included meeting with faculty, nurse practitioners, state policy experts, and local politicians. These meetings and interviews helped get a sense of what the newly formed group, the Health Policy Collaborative, would want to showcase on the website and how the general public would receive the information.

We learned users’s top tasks and goals as well as clear goals from our stakeholders.


After identifying target audiences and developing user personas, I explored an information organization activity, attempting to piece together the various themes and information needs of the site.

Working inside the JMU content management system was limiting, but we were able to do certain things on the site, like pull in outside news sources. I led an effort to include an interview I conducted with a health policy expert on Medicaid expansion in Virginia.

This relatively short project meant the site’s needs were going to change in the future. My goal for this group was to create them a foundation website, that presented their information clearly and professionally.

This meant creating a information architecture framework that could grow, and not impact the discoverability factor for users.

Considering JMU’s site wasn’t responsive at the time, performance and usability on a phone or tablet still remains an issue.

Lessons learned

  • Logistics of scheduling interviews with stakeholders can prolong the time necessary to get information critical for a website.
  • Content management systems (CMSs) often have limitations and it’s important to understand the technology behind it in order to not waste time designing something you know will not work.