Work

Protected Planet: Digital Product Design for United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre

Imagine organisations working together to protect our planet

The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre asked Modern Human to redesign Protected Planet. In just 5 weeks Modern Human designed an experience that meets scientific needs whilst connecting people to statistics about the irreplaceability of species and their resilience to climate change.

In 2010, the 192 members of the United Nations signed up to a strategic plan to halt biodiversity loss and ensure the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources. As part of this plan, it was outlined that at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas would be effectively conserved by 2020.

Progress towards this target is monitored by the World Conservation Monitoring Programme, using The World Database of Protected Areas. The database is the most comprehensive and accurate global database of terrestrial and marine protected areas in the world, and contains data that is collected in cooperation with the governments of member states and various Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). It was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The information it holds includes geospatial data, categorisation information and conservation statistics.

“In a dramatically changing world, faced with many development challenges, protected areas of different sizes, shapes, management and governance systems will become even more important in the future. They play, and will continue to play, a key role in conserving nature and helping people and nature address global environmental challenges, including adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change.”

UNEP-WCMC, Protected Planet Report 2014.

The aim of the World Database of Protected Areas is to halt biodiversity loss and ensure sustainable and equitable use of natural resources. Protected Planet is the public-facing front-end of the World Database of Protected Areas.

Modern Human worked closely with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre team during the redesign and relaunch of Protected Planet. In 5 weeks we conducted international design research, created a concept and iteratively refined it into a polished digital product design.

Protected Planet is used by a wide range of stakeholders. Our initial design research set out to discover the diversity of their needs and to look for common goals and behaviour. We asked users of the website to complete a short survey and then undertook interviews with recent users from 18 countries including Botswana, Nigeria, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Germany and Italy. We looked specifically at their needs, their typical behaviour when using the existing product, and their values. We discovered that scientists and academics use Protected Planet to get the latest protected area data for their research on topics such as biodiversity, habitat loss and climate change. Government employees and protected area managers use Protected Planet to compare areas and to find out more about global conservation best practice. Business ecologists use Protected Planet to understand restrictions that might impact on their company’s operations.

It became clear that the basic needs for our redesign were common across different types of audiences. We redesigned the site to make it easier to find a protected area of interest using a map and a new grid view. Our redesign made it easier to understand the data at a glance, by highlighting key statistics and providing important timelines and graphs of significant information. We also introduced a new comparison tool that enables users to compare individual protected areas, countries and geographic areas.

For professional users we introduced Projects, a workspace that supports their workflow and helps them find, compare, analyse and share relevant data.. One of the key challenges for the World Database of Protected Areas is that data quality and completeness can vary across data providers. There was an also an issue with accurate accreditation of datasets. As part of the redesign we exposed the sources of data to users, thereby making it much more obvious that the data in the World Database of Protected Areas is collected from a wide variety of international, national and regional organisations.

“The new website of @protectedplanet looks flat, cool and usable #WorldParksCongress”

Twitter user @jlehtoma, Postdoc at @helsinkiuni, forest conservation biology, computers, science-policy interfaces, GIS, open science and life.

The main aim of our redesign was to support professional users of the World Database of Protected Areas, but we were also able to make the site more engaging for casual users. We created room for the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre to present stories about the teams and the research behind the data.

The redesign was unveiled at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia. You can read the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre blog post about our work.