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From Card Sort to Redesigned Intranet Site: A Success Story


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This is a case study describing how we moved an intranet that was not working for its employees into a successful website.
The objectives were to "lead with the need,' to determine how current employees want their information organized and what should be emphasized first. Our goals were to redesign the intranet site, focusing on the navigation and organization (overall information architecture); make the site usable; especially when it comes to finding things; and to make the site attractive and understandable to employees.
A card sort seemed the best solution because we had 2 sites that needed to be unified and that had grown too small for the additional information that kept getting added year in and year out. We had an IA that wasn’t working, and we wanted to discover how employees – the principal users of the site – wanted their information organized.
We chose a open card sort because we wanted participants to tell us how they wanted the main categories of the site named (as opposed to us naming the categories for them).

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From Card Sort to Redesigned Intranet Site: A Success Story

  1. 1. From Card Sort to Redesigned Intranet: A Success Story Elke Oberg, Electronic Marketing Coordinator, Measured Progress Bob Thomas, Manager of User Experience, Liberty Mutual Katelyn Thompson, Usability Analyst, Staples June 9, 2010
  2. 2. Scope, Objectives, and Goals Company Mission “Our mission is to improve teaching and learning by providing customized assessment products and educational services.” Objective Make it easier for Measured Progress employees to find information on the intranet, i.e., to “lead with the need.” Measured Progress, a not-for- profit located in Dover, NH, is a leading developer of educational testing and assessment programs
  3. 3. Home HR Policies & Procedures The goal was to unite the separate Insite and HR Policies and Procedures sites, each created with different software applications. Participants commented they would like to use Search and Site Map features. These were available only on the home page.
  4. 4. “You’d think the [Accident and Injury Report] form is under InForm.” InService > HR > Policy Guide > General Administration > Operational Policies > Safety > Accident Reporting and Investigation Plan > [Text… Scroll Down Page] … Accident Report Form (7 clicks) “A person could bleed to death before the form is even located!” InService InForm
  5. 5. Original Navigational Hierarchy Insite: broad and shallow Job Request Form: InForm > Job Request Forms > Form (2 clicks) Safety Form: InService > HR > Policy Guide > General Administration > Operational Policies > Safety > Accident Reporting and Investigation Plan > [Text] … Accident Report Form (7 clicks) HR Policies and Procedures: narrow and deep
  6. 6. Original Navigational Hierarchy I always disliked the confusing, supposedly clever navigation scheme on the old site. It was a guessing game to find content. I never remembered what was where and always had to start the hunt all over. —Mary, Measured Progress Employee
  7. 7. Card Sorts “Card sorting is excellent for situations where you want the users’ mental model to drive the information architecture of the product.” —Courage & Baxter (2005), “Understanding Your Users” “Open sorts are used for discovery. Closed sorts are used for validation.” —Rosenfeld & Morville (2006), “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web”
  8. 8. Card Sorts Users  Recruited users who had used the intranet site for a long time, as well as new hires Methodology  Open card sort Analysis  More information to sift through with open card sorts  Dendrograms to see common groupings
  9. 9. Methodology for the Card Sort  Created and ran an open card sort with 15 Measured Progress employees, including follow-up interviews  Analyzed quantitative and qualitative data  Made recommendations for a new navigational hierarchy and structure
  10. 10. Open Card Sort # Card name 1 Corporate Graphics 2 Floor Plans 3 Facilities and Locations 4 Contacts 5 Employee Directory 6 Corporate Travel 7 Glossary and Acronyms 8 Mission and Philosophy 9 Safety 10 Reimbursement 11 Payroll 12 Purchasing and Requisitions 13 Workplace Policies 14 Hiring and Employment 15 Benefits 16 Work Schedules 17 Personnel Records 18 Shipping and Distribution 19 Printing and Copying 20 Helpdesk 21 Forms 22 Computer and Networks 23 Corporate Marketing and Branding 24 Information Technology 25 Phone and Conferencing 26 Contracts 27 Wellness Programs 28 Diversity 29 In/Out Board 30 News and Announcements 31 Photo Gallery 32 Corporate Events 33 Department Sites 34 For New Employees 35 Workplace Conduct 36 Recognition and Accomplishments
  11. 11. Participant Demographics  All 15 participants had experience using Insite.  Participants from 9 different departments  4 men and 11 women P# Gender Department Used Insite? 0-5 6-10 IE Firefox Word processing Emailing Web Browsing 1 F Testing Services Y x x x x x 2 F Human Resources Y x x x x 3 M Client Services Y x x x x x 4 F Human Resources Y x x x x x 5 F Testing Services Y x x x x x 6 F Office of Technology Y x x x x x 7 F Finance Y x x x x x 8 M Testing Services Y x x x x x 9 F Client Services Y x x x x x 10 F Operational Services Y x x x x x 11 M Scoring Y x x x x x 12 F Process Coordination Y x x x x x 13 F Marketing Y x x x x x 14 F Client Services Y x x x x x 15 M Marketing Y x x x x x Hours Per Week Web Browser for Insite? What Do You Do on a Computer?
  12. 12. Sample Open Card Sort Results: Major Navigation Categories  WHAT I WANT TO USE  Home page  Contracts  Forms  WHAT I WANT TO REFER TO  Department sites  Employee directory  Working at Measured Progress  Helpdesk
  13. 13. Analysis of Results We began to see trends after five card sorts on the first day. Main categories among first five participants
  14. 14. Analysis of Results We started with 106 original categories from all 15 participants, and applied consistent naming conventions. Standardized categories derived from original categories
  15. 15. Analysis of Results Second, we combined similar standardized categories and arrived at a total of 13 standardized categories. Final list of 13 standardized categories 0.67
  16. 16. Dendrograph (Tree Diagram) Trying to see how frequently participants put two cards together in the same group
  17. 17. Analysis of Results Mapping the dendrogram groupings to primary and secondary navigation areas
  18. 18. Analysis of Results “Mental image the user forms to understand how software works and how to operate it” —Arnowitz et al (2007), “Effective Prototyping for Software Makers” In the case of Insite, many participants in our card sorts could not express a mental model of the website beyond the use of “In” headings. But many did express their mental model of the ideal Measured Progress intranet: “There’s stuff there that people need to do their jobs. They need a reference library for working at the company . . . a big bookshelf of benefits and other [information].”
  19. 19. Analysis of Results  Use a navigation hierarchy of medium depth and breadth Use a primary navigation hierarchy of no more than 8 or 9 categories Go 3 or 4 levels deep  Put search at the top of every page  Put site map link on every page
  20. 20. Recommendations
  21. 21. Design of the New Site
  22. 22. Where I Didn’t Listen to Bob  Three-column design on second-level pages  Third-level sub-navigation  Home on main navigation bar  Search at top right of page
  23. 23. Employees’ Reactions . . . terrific and very user-friendly. And it’s easy on the eyes! —Denise . . . navigation makes so much more sense. If I need to look at an HR policy or find the manager of a particular contract, it’s just a couple of clicks away. You can view company newsletters from 2001, as well as articles about what the future might hold for our industry—it’s all there. —Laura . . . now they are grouped and organized in a logical way. Another great improvement is the search feature. If I need to find anything, I can type it in! —Heather Being able to find what I need through multiple channel makes Insite easy to use. —Paul
  24. 24. The Departments Section
  25. 25. The Human Resources Section
  26. 26. The Human Resources Section
  27. 27. The New Help Section
  28. 28. The New Help Section
  29. 29. What We Kept  Quick access to the Employee Directory, the section employees use the most  Corporate colors  Anything that humanizes the user experience: Photo of the week Kids’ art Photo gallery
  30. 30. Content Management System
  31. 31. Conclusions Card sort was a success because:  We involved key stakeholders from the start who clearly saw the benefits of the corporate intranet and wanted to improve the site for employees.  We recruited participants from all areas of the company.  We were able to understand employees’ mental models (“a reference library,” “a bookshelf”).  We discovered how employees wanted items grouped together and what labels made the most sense to them. The bottom line: Measured Progress employees created the IA for their intranet.
  32. 32. Conclusions Redesign of the site was a success because:  We chose simplicity over cuteness (the “In” metaphor).  We unified two separate sites (Insite, HR Policies and Procedures) that were created with two different applications.  We built out a navigational hierarchy that replaced a broad and shallow architecture (10 categories, 1-2 levels deep) with an architecture of medium depth and breadth (7 categories, 3-4 levels deep). The bottom line: Employees can find what they need easily and quickly.
  33. 33. Thank You Questions? Elke Oberg, Electronic Marketing Coordinator, Measured Progress Bob Thomas, Manager of User Experience, Liberty Mutual