Interface Design for Data Management Planning Tool Website
Scholarly researchers today are increasingly required to engage in a range of data management activities to comply with institutional policies, or as a precondition for publication or grant funding. Data management plans are now a standard part of grant proposals for most funding agencies. To aid researchers in creating effective data management plans (DMPs), a group of organizations including California Digital Library and Purdue University Libraires collaborated on the development of the DMPTool, an online application that helps researchers create data management plans.
The DMP Tool is a freely available web application to guide researchers through the process of creating data management plans for a range of funders including the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, and the Environment Protection Agency.
The DMPTool provides detailed guidance and links to general and institutional resources and walks a researcher through the process of generating a comprehensive plan tailored to specific DMP requirements. It allows users to edit, save, share, print, and download their data management plans.
Since its release, the DMP Tool has generated huge interest among the science and library community, including its appearance on the Library of Congress’s Top 10 Digital Preservation Developments of 2011. Since 2011, over 7,000 users from 1,400 institutions have completed 4,400 data management plans on DMP Tool.
In 2013 we received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop a new version of DMP Tool, DMP Tool 2.
In response to users’ needs and expectations, DMP Tool 2 has a number of new features and functionalities, including plan co-ownership; customizable plan templates, guidance, and resources; individual and institutional profiles; different user roles and privileges; refactored user interface; and optional plan review for lifecycle management. These features created significant challenges for user interface and user workflow design.
I joined in the project in January 2013 and was able to quickly understand the nuances of various functional requirements. I effectively translated heterogeneous features into a cohesive vision for the user interface of DMP Tool 2. I created a complete set of wireframes for DMP Tool 2. Those wireframes not only showed how different features should be integrated together for the end user, but also served as the visual guidance for the implementation of the DMP Tool 2 user interface.
I quickly adapted to the needs of different stakeholders and maintained high quality, consistent interface designs for end users. Initial user tests confirmed that users are able to learn DMP Tool 2 quickly and use it without frustration and difficulty.
The rapid prototyping, or design of wireframes for DMPTool, involved multiple iterations of a three-step process:
- convert the use cases and functional requirements into interface designs, factoring in user experience standards and best practices;
- share the wireframes with stakeholder community and evaluate whether the design meets their needs and expectations;
- based on feedback, identify elements of design that need to be refined or further defined. From the use cases we extracted sequences of steps (workflow) the user will undertake to perform a task (e.g., creating a DMP plan).
I mapped the workflows to DMPTool application pages and identified the transition points between pages. The design of high-level workflows helped the project team understand how DMPTool’s functionality should be logically organized from the user’s perspective.
I then used the functional requirements as guidelines to determine the interface elements on each application page. The focus of designing the application pages was to visualize key features and interactions, including overview pages showing information about DMP Plans and Templates; in-page editing functions for DMP Plans, Templates, and Resources; and administrative pages for institutional administrators, DMP Reviewers, Template Editors, and Resource Editors.
I used Axure for developing wireframes of DMPTool with a custom stencil library. I designed common visual elements (e.g., navigation, header, footer, etc.) as “Masters” (shared components) across application pages. I also used real content whenever possible to accurately predict the appearance of pages when they are implemented.
I also developed individual pages for each possible page status depending on the context of user interaction. I actively communicated all designs with the stakeholder communities and applied their feedback in the design iterations.
Important changes to the functional requirements (and ultimately wireframes) based on stakeholder feedback include: DMP plan state transition table, publishing and sharing of DMP Plans, and DMP plan review workflow. The finalized wireframes were used as blueprints of the DMPTool application during the later implementation process.
Zhang, T., and Witt, Michael. (September 6, 2013). DMPTool: Expert Resources and Support for Data Management Planning. Presentation at the Fourth HUBzero Conference (HUBbub 2013).