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ATSE and the future of STEM

13 December 2019

Australia’s leading experts

In December 2015, the Australian Federal Government announced a National Innovation and Science Agenda*, with increased funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Women in STEM has been a particularly important focus, in schools, universities, government and beyond, and for good reason. A study conducted by the CSIRO** shows that women currently make up only 27 per cent of the STEM workforce.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering is a prestigious body that brings together Australia’s leading experts in applied science, technology and engineering to provide impartial, practical and evidence-based advice on how to achieve sustainable solutions and advance prosperity. Recognising the need for better engagement from the general public, government and women, this industry-leading organisation decided to reposition themselves. A new website was a critical part of this evolution and ATSE engaged Liquorice to help make it happen.

The power of personas

From the beginning, the team at Liquorice was faced with two key questions:

  1. How can we make the site more appealing and user-friendly for a broader audience without alienating existing users?
  2. How do we interpret the new brand in this new digital space?

The first step was to identify these new users. Who are they? What are their needs? Using ATSE’s extensive knowledge of their community as a starting point, we defined their audiences’ attitudes and requirements and then developed user personas that represented them.

User personas help us maintain a user-first approach. They allow us to empathise with a broad cross-section of users by synthesising their combined behaviours, goals, and frustrations into a small number of easy to recall personas. Often, when we create a persona, we’ve made some assumptions or generalisations, and that’s ok, that’s what user testing and research is for.

Testing prototypes with real users allowed us to challenge these assumptions and evaluate how well our designs perform in the real world.

Testing our hypotheses

Before beginning user testing, we defined our goals (What do we want to achieve with these prototypes? How will we know if we’ve succeeded?) and then built testing scenarios based on those goals.

One of our higher priority goals was to evaluate how successful the new information architecture functioned, so we developed three tests that focused on finding specific content. Asking the user to find a specific piece of information allowed us to assess how discoverable that content was, through browsing, the use of the search function and calls-to-action.

We applied the brand in a way that allowed variation while ensuring consistency.

Overall, the user testing results were positive, and many of the decisions we made about information architecture were validated. The results also helped us identify some elements that could be improved, and we reprioritised and restructured content accordingly.

It’s been a pleasure working with Liquorice to make the new site happen. The overwhelming feedback from the Board, staff and many stakeholders has been very positive.

Dr David Glanz | Senior Communications Manager, ATSE

Building for the future

In the spirit of ATSE’s more accessible identity, we took the triangular shape of the new brandmark and the vibrant new colours and imagined how it may filter throughout the site and enhance the user experience. Each page now features a unique colour and a randomly-generated shape—some clever automation has ensured the brand can be expanded in a non-repetitive way, but within the boundaries of the brand's style guidelines. This use of colour also supports the content, making it easier for users to navigate and distinguish different topics and content types.

Using multiple tiers of information also makes it easier for new visitors to navigate the site and the content within it. The simpler and more approachable information is at the top, welcoming and educating newcomers. The more technical and detailed information is found deeper in the site, where experts and more familiar users will be at home. We also adapted text-only lists of Fellows into segmented, searchable directories, making finding Fellows simpler.

Another facet of the new site, on which we advised, was the intranet for ATSE Fellows. Although the new site was designed to attract new users, it was also critical that it did not alienate the existing user base, many of whom were Fellows. By giving Fellows a seamless transition (from the old brand and site to the new), we were able to show respect and reassurance and encourage adoption.

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Digital Strategy

Front-end Development

Back-end Development

User Experience Design

User Interface Design


Digital Direction: Jim Yencken

UX/UI Design: Peter Binek

Project Management: Tamera Crang

Development: Hammy Goonan, Vivian Genato, Michelle Chan

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