From inaccessible database, to useful and effective tool

In Norway, all documentation of our nature, from large mountain ranges to the tiniest little mushroom, is collected in the national database “Nature in Norway”, a government initiative to help care for and understand our nature. In conjunction with the new version of the system, Increo was commissioned to make this comprehensive database user-friendly and accessible to multiple audiences with different needs and knowledge levels.

Illustration with excerpt of Nature in Norway

Knowledge saves nature

The Nature in Norway system also called “NIN” is designed to ensure that society makes knowledge-based choices that take care of our nature. For example, information about habitats is needed as a basis for knowledge in planning processes and other land management. Data from NIN can be entered into maps, and used in impact studies - whether it is development plans or similar. Such data is therefore an important basis for decisions on how land should be used and how we can take care of nature.

Examples of user tasks in the system:

Whether a case manager in the municipality needs to know more about old natural pine forest, because it is being investigated to build a cottage field there. Information about this habitat can be found in the NIN system. Here you can see what the forest consists of, what distinguishes this forest from other similar forests and more detailed information needed to be able to decide how the area will be used.

Or maybe you're a mapping student who needs to learn more about how to supply data and map nature. Then you need to familiarize yourself with the NIN system and how hierarchy and habitat types are divided.

The Artsdatabank also wanted to make the database accessible to “the nature-interested”. The system and information should be easy to find out without education or prior knowledge. So that, for example, teachers can easily find information about the badger or be able to share knowledge and be inspired by the wonderful nature we have around us.

Available to all

After many years and various versions of the Nature in Norway system, the database had become difficult to navigate. The content appeared complex and heavy even for the “super user”! Difficult language, confusing navigational possibilities, high level of detail and amounts of technical information made the threshold for use unnecessarily high not only for the researcher and biologist but also for students and students.

This is how we made Nature in Norway user-friendly

1. Inserted us into the user's context, needs and desires for the solution

2. Made complex data more easily accessible to multiple audiences

3. Cleared structure and improve internal search & navigation

4. Created better flow and logic in the system for all users

5. Performed user tests to validate

6th. Delivered design system and prototype to Artsdatabank developers

Laptop with and photo of Norwegian nature

Better navigation tailored to your target audience

The target groups were many and with very different needs and knowledge levels. The nature enthusiast should be able to be inspired, while specialists should quickly be able to dive deep into the tool to get accurate and detailed information out in the field.

Here are some of the steps needed to facilitate the different target groups:

  • Different audiences received customized shortcuts and inputs that fit their needs and user tasks. Not everyone is looking for a way into the system for example, but needs help on an overall level.
  • Help texts tell you what a tool can help you with.
  • Better search, including spelling and highlighting text rather than tags.
  • Good filtering options for the expert who wants detailed information.
  • Complementary information became available to those who need it, but is more widely hidden by default.

Example of simplification:

From endless scrolling through amounts of data in the old solution (backend example) to a simple navigation, where the user can quickly select what they need when they need it.

Improved structure through simplification and increased clarity

  • Cleanup in structure and navigation, with fewer pages and filtering.
  • Clear hierarchy and a good overview of where you are, and where you can move forward.
  • Photo as part of navigation.
  • Color codes and distinct templates, indicate where you are in the database

Avoid Lorum ipsum in the design

The database was characterized by difficult language and subject terminology that made it difficult and inaccessible. The entry threshold for using the system became unnecessarily high.

In work processes like this, it is quick to resort to Lorum ipsum, forgetting that text is also navigation. We skim headlines to navigate our way to what we need, or to understand content.

Take, for example:

“scale-adapted gateway?” as shown in screenshot from the old solution. What is it? By focusing on what the user should do or need, rather than what the system does, both the navigation and the experience of the system were simplified.

A good search experience

There is little that is as complex as nature, and a search in this mire can yield many hits. The database is gigantic and uses words and phrases in Latin and codes that for many are unknown. Or as several of the users told us in the user interviews: “I don't completely trust the result.”

Our brain has limited capacity and working memory, we are unable to process a lot of information at once. Hicks law states that the more choices one gets, the more difficult it becomes to choose or compare. This was certainly the case in the old solution.

Some of the steps needed to improve the search:

  • Help and support along the way such as suggestions and spelling on difficult words.
  • Listings with descriptive titles and less prominent tags
  • Filtering by type of contentPlacing complex filtering in the right place.
  • That is, possibilities of complexity for those who seek it and at the right time.

A good collaboration between designers and biologists

It takes insight and understanding to make a complex solution work together. Between curious designers, patient biologists, user tests, interviews, work meetings, design sprints and not least a close collaboration in Figma, what could have been a demanding piece of work became an enjoyable and agile process across different disciplines.

Now we are already well underway with our next collaboration and assignment for Artsdatabanken which is Ux and insight for

It's fun to solve demanding challenges when you do it together.
A big thank you to Artsdatabanken for the trust and not least for allowing us to be part of such an important social mission.

Knowledge saves nature!

Two-part image with Artsdatabanken shown on mobile and a photo of a man holding a mobile while hiking in the mountains

What can we help you with?

Morten M Wikstrøm
Morten M Wikstrøm
CEO, Consulting
976 90 017
Sebastian Krohn
Sebastian Krohn
Agency Manager, Consulting
988 00 306