10 Sep 2012
Students of Qatar Foundation International's exchange program were discussing questions of space exploration, the environment, democracy, and technological innovation this week following a major update to the discussion forum they use to communicate, which is powered by Meedan.
The exchange program alumni were logging in in record numbers and taking part more actively than ever thanks to a sweeping design refresh to the YALLAH platform (Youth Allied to Learn, Lead and Help), a three-language multi-media discussion forum.
The design improvements, led by Meedan's latest recruit to its creative team - the Lebanese design talent Maya Zankoul, were intended to boost engagement by providing better access to conversational content on the platform and a cleaner, more enjoyable experience of participating.
To achieve these goals, Meedan developed a Top Story feed for the platform dashboard with a masonry-style interface. Calls to action, such as comment and start discussion buttons, were given greater prominence, and interactive pages were overhauled to better show the profile pictures of participants.
Maya also injected some fresh energy into the section icons so that the site felt more youthful and fun.
Almost immediately students took to the changes. One student said: "Changing and Updating Yallah was a very good point ,since the new design and the new look really added a new colour to Yallah ,and motivated us a lot to participate and be active in our community"
Another student said of the redesign: "So I was really excited to see the new Yallah.....and I love it!!! It makes everything really easy. It is very organized (just like the old Yallah)and efficient. I am still so excited about it!"
The Meedan team which built the site is also part of the story, spanning four and a half continents. Developers Caio Almeida (Brazil), Noha Daoud (Egypt), Andy Hull (west coast USA), and Chris Blow (Hawaii) collaborated on the project along with Maya in Lebanon. The team used Skype calls and a customizable open source project management software called Mantis to manage the workload and coordinate development.
The team now plans further improvements to support student engagement and discussion around online educational materials on the platform, including a bookmarklet and an email digest.