Roles: UX and Usability Researcher, Information Architecture Designer, Content Designer, Visual Designer
The staff intranet at my place of work, like many staff intranets, had grown unwieldy and unmanageable. It was a generally agreed upon problem that it wasn’t usable for staff. What we needed was an intranet that was easy and intuitive to use, and to design this intranet I needed to know what staff needed, what they wanted, and how they mentally modeled and navigated work information.
To this end, I developed a three pronged study in which we:
- Evaluated what about the current design wasn’t working with usability tests.
- Conducted focus groups to find out what staff’s highest priorities were – why did they use the intranet? What did they need from it?
- Conducted card sorts with staff members to understand how staff members mentally modeled an ideal information architecture for intranet content.
Among other insights, usability tests demonstrated that the entire informational architecture of the intranet was mismatched with staff mental models. Focus groups informed us that staff needed guides and helping tools, and that they were overwhelmed with the amount of options available at any given time. Finally, card sorts allowed us to identify a common mental model through dendrogram analysis (a sample of which is pictured below).
These insights drove an entire overhaul of the staff intranet, which subsequently tested drastically better in usability studies and appeared satisfying to staff. I redesigned the information architecture of the internet to match staff mental models, and developed new helping tools and directories for ease of access to important information. Additionally, I rewrote and visually redesigned sections of content for easier skimming and scanning, to decrease the amount of stress on a user hunting for refresher information.
Test results indicated staff needed a clear sense of purpose for staff.lib, and clear content guidelines for: when to use content types, locations of posts, and audience selection (whether to lock content to certain staff groups or not). I created these guidelines in consultation with Libraries management, changing procedural and system language to reflect staff vocabulary and posting the resulting guidelines in an easily accessible location within the intranet.