Save the Whales: UX Study of a Marine Life Conservation

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the conservation of whales and dolphins all over the world. They have offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This UX project is not to be affiliated with the organization, though if you wish to support their efforts, you can visit their site here.

In this project, I focused on researching and redesigning the information architecture of their website.

User Research and Synthesis

I started this project by researching users and how they interact with the conservation and the field of marine biology. Having previously worked for Whale and Dolphin Conservation, I knew there would be more than one persona who would use their site or interact with them as an organization. I delved into more research on WDC and found two key users: the environmentally-conscious and marine biologists. These interviews evolved into the personas of Toby-the-Donor and Luna-the-Volunteer. From my interviews and affinity mapping, I noted some I-Statements, listed below:

Environmentally-Conscious Perspective

I want to help the environment, but I don’t have the time.

When I do have the time to volunteer, I don’t want it to take up too much time.

I want to learn more about how I can help the environment.

Marine Biologist Perspective

I want to be immersed in helping the environment.

​I read a lot of articles on marine biology.

I want to work for a cause.

These I-Statements helped me curate the personas of Toby and Luna, as seen below:

Primary and Secondary Personas

Heuristics Analysis

After researching users and how they interact with marine biology and WDC, I dove into the heuristic analysis of their website. From this analysis of the landing page, I was able to find that the site is enjoyable in terms of content, but can be confusing by the large quantity of information and graphics. Some design and type can be more trendy than informative and can take away from the credibility of the organization. Mainly, I learned that users want the information the site is providing but, based on industry standards, their site isn’t as credible as they are as an organization.


Condense the two primary navigation bars to one single navigation bar. This would reduce decision fatigue for users when trying to find where they want to go.

Change the terminology in primary and secondary navigations. This would help non-regular users, like Toby, can understand everything immediately.

Reduce the size of the header photos to reduce scrolling and bring information to the forefront. Users enjoy and want the information WDC is providing, but it can be difficult or time-consuming to get to.

Bring the donation and shop pages (Donate, Donate a Vehicle, and Shop) to the original site instead of having those as separate sites. The main reason for this recommendation is that it is difficult for users to navigate back to the original page from these pages.

Make “News & Blog” a utility button instead of a primary navigation option. This would reduce occupied space for the primary navigation and it is one of the main purposes of the site like “Adopt” and “Donate.”

Heuristic Analysis of WDC Landing Page

Information Architecture Research

Open Card Sorting

Due to the scope of the project, I had seven users participate in an open card sort for the navigation of the WDC site. From these card sorts, I analyzed the most commonly used group names and the most similar groupings to decide on the given group names for the upcoming closed card sorts.

Recommended Group Names

About Us


Get Involved


Events + Activities



Closed Card Sorting

With the group names collected from the open card sorts, I conducted both physical and digital closed card sorts with multiple users. I had eleven users participate in closed card sorting.

Recommended Navigation Categorization from Card Sorting


Before I conducted this research, WDC’s website had two primary navigation bars, the tertiary navigation was included in the secondary navigation, and there were similar and repeated navigation categories.

Original Website Navigation and Layout

After I concluded my research, the website has one primary navigation bar and relocated “Donate” and “Adopt” buttons that fit in with the branding of the conservation.

Redesign of Website Navigation and Layout. Interactive Figma Prototype:


After completing the analysis of card sorting, I visualized both the original and redesigned navigation of the WDC website into sitemaps, as seen below. One of the changes I made from the original site to the redesign is moving “News & Blogs” to be a utility button and renaming it to “News.” This clears up space for the primary navigation, helping reduce the number of navigation bars from two to one. Another change includes importing some secondary and utility options that bring you to different sites into the original site. This would keep all of their information together and assist in the controllability of the site, especially with user errors and navigating back to the original site. Lastly, I renamed and shortened numerous titles to get information to the non-regular user quickly and without insider-terminology.

Sitemap of Original Navigation
Sitemap of Redesigned Navigation

Next Steps

Due to the few number of users who participated in card sorting, my next steps include:

Testing the website navigation with users

Conducting 5-Second Tests with users

Conducting A/B Tests with users

Due to the scope of the project, my next steps for the WDC website include:

Redesigning home page and headers on all pages

Connecting Shop to the main website OR a way to return to the original site from the Shop site

Keeping the logo (and reduce the size) on all pages, linking it to the home page so users can navigate back to it from any page

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Danni//Danielle is a curious and creative UX Researcher in New York City motivated by learning, solving, and advocating for truth for the greater good.