Matt Belge & Elizabeth Farnsworth: Go Botany – Using eCommerce Techniques to “Sell” Science”

Feb2013 Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 6:30 – 9:00 pmMicrosoft NERD (New England Reasearch and Development Center)One Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA 02142


We didn’t set out to “sell” science, we were trying to create a great way for people, including kids, to connect with the science of botany. We did the usual steps – interviewing users, creating personas, making sketches. And then a funny thing happened – we started incorporating ideas common in the world of eCommerce into our designs. As we did this, a number of events began to unfold: Implementation became easier, because there were so many eCommerce widgets and techniques we could obtain from the Open Source community. The user experience became more compelling. After all, eCommerce’s main purpose is persuasion. And learning became more fun, because the site was immersive and highly interactive. Not to mention, dare we say, gorgeous. In this talk, we will present “Go Botany”, the web site we designed to help people learn about the native plants of New England. We believe that the lessons learned here go well beyond botany – we think they are applicable to a very broad range of science education courses. A world where exploration, interactivity, and self directed learning replaces dull lectures and dry texts. And we’ll take you step by step to help explain why. Plus, in the dead of February, we’ll show you some lush and lovely plants with live audience interaction!
This project was funded by the National Science Foundation (ISE 08-40186).


Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth

Elizabeth Farnsworth, Ph.D., is Senior Research Ecologist with the New England Wild Flower Society, and a biologist, educator, and scientific illustrator. She has studied plants in many regions of the world, with an emphasis on plant physiology, ecology, and conservation. She is co-author of the Connecticut River Boating Guide: Source to Sea (which she wrote while navigating the river in her hand-built wooden kayak) and the Peterson Field Guide to Ferns of Northeastern North America. She has illustrated the Flora Novae Angliae (Yale University Press), The Nature of New Hampshire, A Field Guide to the Ants of New England (Yale University Press), and five other books on ferns, coastal ecology, climate change, statistics, and spiders.
She is also Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed botanical journal, Rhodora. She serves on the graduate science faculties of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Rhode Island, and the Conway School of Landscape Design. She holds a B. A. from Brown University, M. Sc. from the University of Vermont, and a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. In her spare time she plays and sings in a duo called Easy Wind.

Matt Belge

Matt Belge has been a User Experience Designer since before the term existed. With an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and graduate work in Fine Arts, Matt believes that art and engineering can work synergistically to form great user experiences. And while it’s finally becoming “mainstream” to voice these concepts, Matt’s been doing it since the late 1980’s. He founded Vision & Logic in 1993, a user experience design consultancy.

Matt has been a Group Director of User Experience at Digitas LLC and Artist in Residence at First Person, Inc. (inventors of the Java language). Matt is a former president of BostonCHI, and has lectured at leading universities and conferences including the ACM SIGCHI conference. Matt’s been a frequent presenter at