Collins Dictionary

Started : Q4 2012

Project Duration : 6 months

Information architecture and interaction design for Collins’ first online dictionary.

The Challenge

The Languages division of Collins have pioneered dictionary publishing since 1819. They’ve been responsible for some of the most important print dictionaries in the last century.

In spite of their incredible print heritage, the Collins didn’t really have much in the way of digital presence for their dictionaries. The SDK was technically available online, though it was little more than a series of unstyled text pages.

I worked with Collins to create their first real online dictionary.

The Solution

The aim was to bring the prestige and approachability of the Collins print dictionaries online. We set out to produce the most user-friendly and engaging dictionary on the web.

In addition to creating a really user friendly site, Collins also wanted to add some exciting new community features. New features included :

  • The ability for users to suggest new words.
  • Discussions around words, and word usage.
  • Historical language trends from the ‘Corpus’ API.
  • Integration with the thesaurus and translations.
  • ‘Word of the day’ feature, and editorial.

What I Did

I defined requirements and created user personas

I worked with Collins to run workshops and identify project requirements.

This led to detailed project goals and user personas. Getting these personas just right was tricky. The Collins Dictionary has a really broad audience. Distilling user needs into a small number of profiles was quite the challenge!

It was worth the effort, though. The personas were a really useful tool on the project. I could use them show how journeys span the various platforms and APIs that we used to provide the user experience.

Initial user journeys and personas defined the product requirements.

I engineered the dictionary IA, and produced technical documentation

The information architecture portion of this project was very heavy. The dictionary SDK provided a huge amount of information beyond just the definition.

Breaking this down and structuring it in a meaningful and readable way was a big challenge. I mapping the various elements of a dictionary entry into semantic HTML, ensuring that we covered accessibility and SEO requirements.

Defining the structure of a dictionary entry.

I designed the user interface for the new dictionary

I went through many versions of the dicionary UX, resolving a number of usability and navigation issues before development even started. The final product was a really slick, user-friendly online dictionary.

Converting a dictionary entry into a webpage specification.

I AB tested and iterated the design during an open beta period

During the site’s open beta, we continually refined and enhanced the user experience by conducting AB testing, and closely monitoring analytics data.

Early website wireframes for the Collins Dictionary.

The Results

The input that I provided to the project helped create a groundbreaking application that sets new standards for usability and design within the online dictionary arena.

It has also allowed Collins to build further awareness and trust in their dictionary brand online, as well as granting new opportunities for customer and product promotions.

Applying the Collins branding to create polished designs.

See the results : Visit the website

Want to learn more?

Contact Chris