The Team

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Nathan Novotny

Major: Architecture 

Graduating Spring 2021

Interested in:  Residential Architecture and User Experience Design.


Jack Schutz

Major: Pre-Product Design 

Graduating Spring 2023

Interested in: Prototyping and UX design


Julia Pan

Major: Computer Science

Graduating Spring 2023

Interested in: UX design/research and video game development


Caleb Paradies

Shahab Alsiyabi

Major: Product Design

Graduating Spring 2021

Interested in: UX Design

Major: Mechanical Engineering 

Graduating Spring 2022

Interested in: Designing systems of mechanical nature

Our Client

The Arc Minnesota is a non profit organization with the goal of assisting those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They came to us in Design U to help them improve their website. They are looking for advice on how to make Arc MN more accessible, how to deal with content issues, and how to make navigating the website easier for users.

Our Process

1. Expert Interviews

To better understand the behavior of Arc Minnesota's users, we met with two senior researchers for the University Center of Excellence in Disabilities at the University of Minnesota. Brian Abery and Sheryl Larson  work closely with those with developmental disabilities, so they offered great insight.

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Brian Abery

+1 612-625-5592

Brians Info

Sheryl Larson

+1 612-624-6024

Sheryls Info

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2. User Surveys

To learn the needs of Arc Minnesota users, we created a survey for them. With the help of David and Chloe of Arc Minnesota and fellow Design U members, we had the online surveys sent to advocates and parents of those with disabilities. 

Click here to see the results.

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3. Website Analysis

To better understand the content and flow of the website, we created a site map. We started at the homepage and worked our way out from the five main categories. We mapped out every possible path a user could take. Doing this was like getting a birds eye view of this maze of a website, and helped us to identify possible pain points for a user. We identified broken links and left comments on other issues we noticed along the way.


Click here to navigate it yourself and see those comments.


Compiling what we found from the researchers advice, the users feedback, and our website analysis, we have some suggestions for how we think The Arc MN’s website could be improved. We categorized them in three major sections; Accessibility, Content, and Navigation.


1. Impliment more Visual Design and a Simpler Layout


Make the user interface super basic. Incorporate short video clips, icons in place of text, and less word heavy pages. Using a combination of visual and auditory will make the information. Have each page have elements (buttons, links, etc) that do the same thing each time.

People of all types, especially those with intellectual disabilities, respond better to information displayed visually. It is much easier to comprehend info if it's not just in chunks of text.

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“Make it more visual for person with a disability to understand”


“It would also be great if you did include the videos on the website”

“Many people I refer to The Arc are not aware of it's You Tube channel and would find a video format much easier"

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Many of the pages are just walls of text. A text color could be clickable on one page and not on another. Once you're past the homepage, visual appeal and simplicity disappears.

2. More Inclusive Terminology


Have headings and titles be short. Use terminology anyone could understand when possible. Have bulleted list, closed captioning on videos, and similar document structure page to page. 

Make it as easy for a 5 year old. Anyone who comes to the website should be able to glance at the content and get the gist. 


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“[There is] no clear understanding of what The Arc does in words that are clear, concise and understandable to all people, including those who are not familiar with disability language, terminology, systems, etc.”

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Current pages, and even page names, have a lot of heavy terminology (like “Medical Assistance TEFRA” page) or are very long-winded (like “Least Restrictive Environments in Special Education and Federal Setting” page).


1. Cut Back on Amount of Content


Take out old links. Delete repeated content. Create an archive with rarely used information and put it in google docs. Hire someone specifically for content management or implement content management software.

Archive Old Information. Put old or rarely used content into something like a google docs. Don’t need all bells and whistles.

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“Too much info on the front page”

“There's too much/too technical of information on the main page and no clear description of what The Arc actually does.”

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Found way too many pages. Easily can get lost in all the information. Lots of old or broken links, pages deep in the website, repeated links right by each other.

2. Prioritize Connection and Searchability


 Include Ask an Advocate, Email, and chat feature on homepage and throughout website, always easily accessible. Optimize search results so even if things are spelled wrong, they will come up. Include an FAQ section if many of the same questions come up.

Find out what users really need then cater to that. Many people just want to be able to talk to someone when they need help or can’t find something.

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“its kinda easy to find if you know how to look things up”

Is there anything you wish the website provided?

“an "Email the Arc" option so I or others could follow up with you with questions right away.”

“a live chat”

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Entering common questions didn't yield correct results.

Spelling things wrong usually didn't yield results. Often couldn't find a chat or help feature. 


1. Lead People to catered content


Understand the different concerns of your users.  Create ways to lead people to the content they need, such as a quiz on the homepage. Include elements that make it clear who the content is for and who it would benefit. Group content relating to each-other for a certain group in an easy to access section.

Lead people to the information they are looking for, don't just force them to find it. Different users have different wants and needs. Ex. a parent's want for resources to ensure a high quality of life for their child is very different than a self advocate looking for social connections.

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When asked “What are the most important things Arc Minnesota provides for you?”, we had an array of answers:

“A place to meet and talk with other self advocates”

“information to serve folk with disabilities”

“Making new friends standing up for people”

“systems advocacy, change in the perception of people with disabilities and fighting for full inclusion and civil rights for persons with disabilities”

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 After the homepage, website stops leading people. Instead, more of an information dump people are left to navigate.


2. Create a Flow


For Learning Center, have only one page to reach all the guides (similar to “Arc Guides” page, but more fleshed out). Cut out all the “related guides” or “you might like” sections, they clutter the website and are not as helpful as personalized recommendations. 

For other pages, ensure there is a clear, logical path from one page to the next, do not loop back to an old page unless it’s directly related to the current page, and you can’t access it from the header.

Just providing information isn’t enough. Group information or break it down so its easier to digest.

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“[It takes] so many clicks to find information. Hard to find blog posts”

 Anything you wish the website provided? 

“Easier navigation”

Least Favorite Aspect?

“how thing are hard to fine when it could be easy”

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Certain pages, especially in the Learning Center, all link to each other creating loops. Messy web of pages. Check out or comments on the Site Map for more.

Additional Resources

Accessibility Widget 

We found this great widget while on The Arc national website. It really does it all. The Swiss army knife of accessibility widgets.


Accessibility Website Checker

Run the website through this free software to find underlying issues in the design or code. 


Accessibility Standards

Check out the ADA website compliance guide for accessibility.