User is king
As a part of the CEM full site redesign, one of the biggest hurdles was that after years of pages and sections being slowly added the information architect has become complicated and difficult to use.
One of the key takeaways from the research phase was the site had very distinct target audiences. Each one came for very different reasons at different times of the year and the overlap of content between them was minimal.
User personas & user journeys
One of the first phases was to create user personas for each type of user; eg. future parent wanting enrollment information, current teacher learning about accreditation or a community member wanting to know about funding. Once we had compiled a list we were able to research their goals and needs, any barriers they were facing and get a good idea of each one’s user journey.
Once we had the personas fleshed out we had a better idea of the high level sections of the site and collated the full IA as a detailed sitemap. The first workshop was with the clients as they had a better understanding of the content, getting them to assign pages to the subsequent areas and rank the importance gave us a better understanding of the hierarchy of the site as a whole.
We also ran a smaller card sorting session with volunteers that matched each persona, this gave us some interesting insights on needs that were missed or considered not as important when trying to look at it as a whole
Combining all the workshops and research we were able to create a much cleaner hierarchical IA. We began testing a few menu designs, this included separating out areas like school search, job search and terms date into a separate higher priority menu.
The second biggest takeaway was it became impossible to have everything needed at a 1st level. Our solution for this was to create a user journey search in the header. This way the most crucial information was accessible without needing to navigate the menu.