Enhancing Website Discoverability: Redesigning the PA-X Website for Intuitive...

Is your website intuitive? In today’s digital landscape, the efficacy of a website extends beyond the content it provides, to the usability of the site itself. Imagine a website containing valuable research data and resources that have been meticulously curated for expert users, yet the work is hidden behind an unintuitive interface.  

Research by Nielsen (2001) reveals a startling truth: users often abandon websites after a single, unsuccessful search attempt. This means critical data, like the kind found on PA-X, risks going unseen simply because users can’t find it.  When a website is made intuitively, users can interact with its interface and navigate it with little help or instruction. This user-friendly experience reduces frustration. 

One of our recent PeaceTech projects in User Experience (UX) design tackled this challenge by re-designing the PA-X Peace Agreement Database website to enable intuitive user navigation and operation with minimal effort and guidance. This post outlines the rationale behind the design of the new PA-X website, and the UX principles and methods that underpinned the changes. 

Understanding User Needs

To unlock the true potential of the PA-X website, we embarked on a user-centred exploration of the needs and expectations of our key users. Utilizing methods such as Usability Testing and ThinkAloud activities, we gained valuable insights into how users interacted with the websites: what information users look for, whether users can find the information they require, and where they encountered difficulties in doing so.  

Identifying Key Challenges

Our research revealed several issues with the PA-X website:  

  1. Unclear Navigation: Users lacked visual cues to understand their location within the website.
  2. Visual Clutter: The homepage and navigation menu were overloaded with information, making it difficult to find key resources.
  3. Hidden Gems: Important data and functionalities were buried deep within the website’s structure. 

One of the primary challenges we uncovered was the lack of visual cues to guide users through the website. Users often found themselves disoriented, unable to discern their current location within the site’s structure. This frustration hindered their ability to find the valuable resources they needed.  

For instance, the gif below illustrates two different pages on the PA-X website users were interacting with. One user is searching for agreements with gender provisions on PA-X Gender, and the other browsing relevant research outputs. Both these pages are accessible from the top navigation bar, but there are no visual cues for users to easily discern what page they are on. 

Two views of the PA-X search feature

Design Solutions and Implementation

Leveraging these insights and inspired by Nielsen’s usability heuristicssuch as enhancing the visibility of system status and optimizing the visual hierarchy of the websites – we set out to implement solutions that would address these challenges and empower our users to navigate with ease. We enacted the following solutions to unlock the potential using UX design principles:  

  1. Clear Navigation: We introduced breadcrumbs and highlighted the current page in the navigation menu, giving users a clear sense of location. A simple, yet effective solution as it improved overall usability and reduced user frustration.
  2. Prioritized Content: We streamlined the homepage and navigation menu, showcasing key functionalities and data collections prominently. This provides clear messaging about PA-X and what it does, immediately when users land on the website.
  3. Visual Hierarchy: We revamped the visual hierarchy, ensuring important messages and resources were visually emphasized. We removed all redundant and distracting content.  

Simply by telling users where they were on the site and reducing cluttered content, we made it easier for users to find the information they were looking for. This catered to all our needs, with minimal structural design/development changes to the website. 

GIF showing the before and after of the PA-X homepage


Results and Future Directions

The results of our redesign efforts were evident in the positive feedback received from users. By prioritizing user needs and implementing intuitive design solutions, we were able to create a more user-friendly experience for visitors to the PA-X website. We hope these changes will allow our users to find easily and quickly what they need, to support their valuable work. 

Looking ahead, we remain committed to continually refining and improving the website to meet the evolving needs of our users. Through ongoing user testing and feedback, we strive to ensure that the PA-X website remains a valuable resource for peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts worldwide.

In conclusion, the journey to enhance the user experience of the PA-X website was not without its challenges, but through a combination of user-centric design principles and innovative solutions, we succeeded in creating a more intuitive and user-friendly digital environment. 


Explore the new PA-X V8 website.

Read complete case studies for the Peace Agreements (PA-X) website redesign and PeaceRep website usability evaluation and redesign.