User is king
On the CEM redesign we had large task of cleaning up a very extensive IA which had evolved over the years to become confusing with a lot of overlapping areas/content. The main concern being multiple different types of used used the site for very different reasons, so we needed to break out what was important to who needed to see what information.
Based on the kick off meetings and our own research we created 12 user personas of all the different demographics that used the site; this included staff, parents, teachers and students. Once we had the user personas fleshed out we went back to the basics by printing out all the pages for a large card sorting session with the clients. This was to distinguish which pages were the most important and which pages could be grouped together better.
For the development we aimed to provide a lot more flexibility to their templates, as their existing templates were very limiting. This lead to a heavily component based design and build, allowing all components to be able to used on any template in any combination.