Reflections on Creating an Interpretive, Educational Website

The entire process of creating an interpretive, educational website about Hispanic heritage on and along Route 66 in New Mexico has definitely been an interesting one. I have worked on interpretive projects before, and creating a StoryMap about this topic was both more demanding and more relaxed than anticipated. A lot of the work I do with digital media is for younger audiences, those who are considered computer literate. I carry my own assumptions of what is considered “easy” and “intuitive” for technology, mostly because I grew up using computers and different forms of technology both for recreational and educational purposes. However, I had to constantly remind myself and edit content for this particular project to be more intuitive and suitable for an older audience. While this information will only be exclusively available online, most of the people who utilize the National Trails’ resources are older adults that tend to be less familiar with current technology. This was an interesting challenge to work through because the text and site I was creating had to have language that explained material to their expectations (which was a bit more in depth than normal), while also trying to make the experience as smooth as possible when interactive with different forms of digital media. So, while I had to go over details about Route 66’s alignment and be precise about dates and how the bypass specifically affected different communities, I also had to be cognizant of how the text appeared, using tools like pointing out when users can click on a link and coloring it in a brighter color so that, through repetition, they will also know that future text that is that color can also be clicked on.

I created this GIF to illustrate that the history of Route 66 goes far beyond rockabilly and road trips and impacts the lives of numerous individuals who live, work, and play on and along the road. I had to make sure site users knew they could access this content by clicking on a particular link by noting where they click in the text and highlighting it a different color so it stands out.

I am pretty happy with the end product. There was definitely more information I could have included, but, given the platform, I didn’t want to overburden users too much. I do think, however, that there are many opportunities for future interns and staff to expand this project to create new StoryMaps based on specific communities, zooming in on a micro-scale, or to focus on other geographic regions entirely, such as Texas or Arizona, whose Hispanic residents have entirely different experiences than those in New Mexico. I hope projects like this continue. I hope those that use this site enjoy the experience and learn from it and that it can serve as a great example why having a presence online or how using technology can be a great form of outreach to visitors. It can be accessible, even if those using the platform aren’t entirely tech-savvy, and can create unique experiences that provide educational content in a new way.

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