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Proceedings, First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Rome, 2001


MEDASSET & Kings College, Taunton, UK (2)

University of Exeter, UK

1. INTRODUCTION EuroTurtle - a Mediterranean sea turtle Biology & Conservation web site for Science and Education is the result of collaboration between the University of Exeter, Kings College, Taunton and MEDASSET (The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles). Set up in January 1997, the site was the first in Europe to be exclusively devoted to the conservation and biology of Mediterranean sea turtles. Its award-winning style and content is very different from other educational sites on the web. EuroTurtle contains overviews of all sea turtle species, a section on the threats to turtles in the Mediterranean (e.g. tourism), identification keys and even an adventure game involving a loggerhead turtle on a Greek island. The site, which is rich with high quality graphics, work sheets, diagrams and on-line activities, had grown in size and popularity to the point where a major redesign became essential. In 2001 a major site redesign was carried out by the Telematics Centre at The University of Exeter with funding kindly provided by MEDASSET. 2. USER NEEDS ANALYSIS The redesign of the site was informed by end-user needs analysis. In addition to the feedback data provided by users informally, a more formal end-user consultation was conducted with 36 trainee secondary teachers in a focus group setting. These trainee teachers, drawn from a range of subject areas including science, geography, mathematics and modern foreign languages, were all undertaking a supplementary option in information and communication technology to allow them to offer IT as an additional ‘string to their bow’. Whilst the majority of students felt that EuroTurtle in whole or in part, could be used within both their main and supplementary subjects, a few felt that it would only be applicable within the supplementary IT subject. 2.1. INFORMAL USER FEEDBACK

Informal, and to all intents and purposes unsolicited user feedback is a major source of usability data. It shows the immediate and ‘urgent’ concerns of the users, as well as their emerging concerns (Nielsen 1993). It is clear that the sample may not be representative, 212

Proceedings, First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Rome, 2001

and indeed may be disproportionately weighted in favour of dissatisfied users. Since its inception EuroTurtle has welcomed feedback through email direct to the site author, Roger Poland. 2.2. OUTCOMES OF INFORMAL END-USER FEEDBACK

During its lifetime EuroTurtle has received over two thousand emails, the majority from teachers and students. There has also been a significant number of enquiries from the media including, the BBC, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian requesting the most up to date information on the present status of sea turtle conservation in the Mediterranean. The majority of responses have been highly complimentary. Some have provided constructive feedback on site improvements, including the following summarised suggestions: long pages very difficult to cope with and requested to split into shorter pages turtle background image on each page made it difficult for some children to read as the site grew and more and more content was added it was difficult for the two key target groups, educationalists and conservationists, to facilitate location of new content relevant to their interests original splash screen, which had minimal contact, delayed the user from getting at the real content and was frustrating the original game was too long to play as it was scripted in long scrolling pages and had large pictures which were slow to load more scientific papers and current articles a search engine would be useful the site map was an essential navigational aid, but was becoming too complex. ● ● ●

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The decision to adopt a focus group as the principal means of formal data collection was taken for a number of consideration. In particular the need to: to create an environment which would generate ‘users’ spontaneous reactions and ideas through the interaction between the participants” (Nielsen 1993) to conduct a small-scale survey in view of the limited budget resources to balance informal feedback with feedback from a sample of the target group. ●

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In the focus group the trainee teachers were asked to brainstorm ideas for a crosscurricular Mediterranean sea turtle conservation web site to be used in schools. Responses were collated in plenary. This sensitised the students to the next task, performed in interdisciplinary groups of four, in which they were asked to look together at the original EuroTurtle site, discuss and evaluate it, and then agree their top five recommendations for improving it. 213

Proceedings, First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Rome, 2001


Whilst there was universal praise for the site, the group generated some useful ideas for the redesign of EuroTurtle. All groups strongly felt that the navigation system needed to be improved, so that it was consistent throughout the site. It was suggested that more use of navigation icons rather than text could be made. The trainee teachers were a little overwhelmed by the amount of content. In order to help the site better address the needs of its core target groups it was recommended that the site should be split up. One site should be designed explicitly for educational users, which the trainee teachers described as a ‘junior viewer navigation system’. Suggestions for other ‘child friendly’ features included more cartoon pictures and more animation. The site map was deemed to be essential but the group found the old map very complicated and ‘a bit dissertation plan-like’. It was suggested that the site map should be made clearer, be attached or become the homepage. In assessing the adventure game, the focus group recommended making it more exciting by allowing users to choose their own route. Some felt the game should be less predictable though others felt it needed to have a clearer progression. It was requested that it be made more user friendly by having each scene on single screen to avoid scrolling. Other suggestions included the use of Flash animation and e-commerce to raise funds for turtle conservation. 3. SITE REDESIGN The site was re-launched with its new domain name at in July 2001. The following sections summarise the main changes made to the site. 3.1. GENERAL CHANGES

In line with guidelines for accessible multimedia design the site has been designed to give a standardized look and feel to the whole site. This ensures simplicity of navigation, and consistency of style and operation. The 2001 version utilises frames so that there is always a navigation bar at the top of the screen. The screen is designed so it can be viewed at the two common screen resolutions (1024x768 and 800x600) so that everything is in view at the same time (width). Long pages have been avoided and downward scrolling has been reduced to a minimum. A number of elements have been implemented to enhance legibility. The ‘turtle logo’ background pattern has been replaced by a white screen background; the main text colour has been changed to beep blue. Whilst this is more aesthetically pleasing, it also retains high contrast against the white background to improve legibility; a serif font, Times Roman, for main text, and a sans serif font, Arial, for section headings have been used. 214

Proceedings, First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Rome, 2001


The main home page is now more informative and allows the user to enter either the education or conservation websites. There are now two further ‘home pages’, one for education and one for conservation. Each has a similar layout to aid navigation and understanding. Both sections are easy to navigate between but allow teachers and students to identify educational projects quickly and easily. The ‘magazine-style’ of the homepage has been adopted to reflect the complexity and depth of the content. The style also reflects the content turnover of the site, which grows on a weekly basis, and to provide clear links to the latest additions to the site. A search utility has been added to the site allowing users to search through the all titles, headings, body text and images contained in the site. 3.3. INSTRUCTIONS AND SITE MAP

The detailed instruction page has been removed, as most users are now familiar with navigation techniques required for web browsing. The site map has been retained although a clearer layout has been used. The EuroTurtle Navigation Medallion has been discarded, as navigation is now possible from the top frame, which appears on every page of the website. 3.4. EDUCATION

The ‘Adventure Game’, in which students help a female Loggerhead turtle to lay eggs successfully on a sandy beach, has had a number of major changes which now allow the game to be played in less time, making it more enjoyable and ‘user friendly’. Each scene from the game is now on a separate page, with new DHTML layer techniques deployed to show results of each decision. The graphics have been downsized to speed up access to the game via low bandwidth connections. A new alternative version in which the user can make the decision of what to do next, removing the element of luck or chance. Both games have also been enhanced with new photographs and graphics. The ‘Bonekit’, which motivates and engages children to explore skeletons, has now become fully interactive. Skeletons of a human, a turtle and a frog can be assembled using new ‘drop and drag’ techniques created using DHTML and JavaScript. The ‘Clickable Turtle’ helps children learn the parts of the turtle and then test their memory. The old version has been improved by the removal of pop-up windows and the addition of rollover pop-up descriptions. A new ‘Turtle Parts Identification Game’ has replaced the old multiple choice game. In the new, more challenging game, the parts of the turtle have to be labelled by dragging and dropping identifiers. This has been authored through DHTML and Javascript. 215

Proceedings, First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Rome, 2001

‘Greentrack’ was a separate website, which followed a green turtle via a satellite-tracking beacon as she migrated, from her nesting site to the winter-feeding grounds. Greentrack is now part of the EuroTurtle website. The ‘Identification Keys’, in which students use a Dichotomous key to identify sea turtles from drawings and photographs, now have both comparison diagrams ‘in view’ on the screen at the same time, allowing for easy comparison. In the old version, scrolling was required. The ‘Outlines’ section, which provide a brief summary of each of the eight species of Sea Turtle and their distribution, has been split up into lots of small pages to limit scrolling, and to speed up page loading. Navigation to each section is now via drop down menus. The ‘Size Comparisons Section’, a measuring exercise involving sea turtle carapace size, is now interactive and involves students entering data into a quiz that also produces a score to indicate degree of accuracy in the turtle measuring exercise. The quiz has been authored using developed using “Hot Potatoes v4.1 by Half-Baked Software”. The ‘Virtual Field Station’ allows students to become a Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer on the virtual Mediterranean island of FOURAMOS. The password protection has now been removed and the Virtual Field Station is now freely available for teachers. The ‘Conservation section’ has been separated from the education projects so that biologists and conservationists can find relevant information more readily. The MEDASSET section has also been expanded to include scientific papers and press releases that can be downloaded by the visitor to their computer. The ‘Useful weblinks’ page is now interactive and the visitors can suggest links. There is also a dedicated ‘Feedback Page’. 4. REFERENCES Nielsen J. 1993. Usability Engineering. Academic Press, San Diego, USA.


Experiences with Europe's First Mediterranean sea turtle web site: EuroTurtle.