Goal: Modernize Scholastic’s website, content strategy, and visual design system, then validate with research- focus on optimizing for teaching
In 2015 I was part of a team at Code and Theory, an NYC based agency, where we took on the challenge of modernizing and simplifying the experience of books and learning resources on Scholastic.com / teachers. Our example of what the new world of Scholastic could be like began with a focus on teachers: Scholastic’s #1 target audience.
Our project goal was to cement Scholastic’s position in the modern world of educational context, where teaching and learning from books now involves more digital and multimedia content. Users are looking for a more colorful and engaging entry point into reading materials, accompanied by activities and other resources that transform books into teaching tools.
Getting to know Scholastic
Scholastic is an American multinational publishing and educational materials company that is prolific in the US. Many people in the US know scholastic through its “Book fairs”- small book selling events that take place in children’s own schools and introduce them to the joys of books and reading at an early age. Scholastic began publishing printed newspapers and low cost books for youth in the 1920s and operates today in 165 countries around the world.
Scholastic needed to address the changing landscape of the educational experience, where teachers are challenged to be more creative in the classroom, and where parents have become “after-hours teachers”, looking for ways to extend and supplement what children are learning in school.
Engaging Everyone: from kids to adults
Our site had the amazing challenge of needing to work well for both adults and children!
Children visited the Scholastic site to look for books they’d like to ask their parents and teachers for, and also to play games that bring their favorite books to life.
Parents and Teachers visit the site to buy books for entertainment and education. Teachers also depend on Scholastic for “extras” that allow them to turn books into teaching tools.
In research, our explored color palettes and content density that worked well for both children and adults. While some pages could work reasonably well for adults and older children we did designate some pages that were specifically geared towards younger audiences. These pages were shorter (involving less scrolling), more colorful, and featured just a few books or games.
Young audiences responded more to familiar books and characters. They responded to calls to action that were quiz or game-like.
Older audiences were more open to discovery and recommended content. Older audiences responded well to more complex written calls to action to try new things, and were open to books or content that was recommended as “similar” to something they knew in terms of topic or author.
The outcome of our work was a site that supported flow for users in streams of content that were well suited to their age and interests, with opportunities sprinkled in for users to “jump channels” into content that lead towards educational, playful, or product driven ends.
We also spent time with the content team and improved the formatting and options for several kinds of content (like learning materials and games) that had been forced into some sub-optimal templates. We were able to provide Scholastic with a truly brand-impacting set of deliverables for their website: new content formats and content strategy, a new visual design, and a new site architecture that was more in tune with site visitors and their interests.