Using minimalism to promote organization and simplicity:
One of the biggest takeaways we received from our initial user research was the notion that the existing layout of the intranet was overwhelming, especially on the home page. While our updates to the sites UI and consolidation of content types went a long way towards organizing the chaos, the team still felt there was more room for improvement. Namely, sunsetting deprecated and little used components/functionality, reimagining the display of our navigation and improving search accuracy.
Trimming the fat:
Because of its limited usage, we elected to completely remove the trending story section of the homepage which was a component listing articles with the most likes/views living in the right gutter. We also removed all social indicators (likes/views) from article thumbnails. Instead opting to only display those metrics on the actual content pages. Additionally, the team determined that the “add space” section of the homepage that displayed rarely used promotional CTAs could be reproduced using our new Company News component and was cut.
Calming the super nav:
Much of our user angst revolved around the somewhat confusing navigation. The current implementation utilized an always expanded super nav whose categorization had become unclear and busy with redundant content over time. We knew we were confined to our existing template with left navigation so our objective was to reorganize the info architecture in a more logical way, remove any of the dead weight and develop a design that gave the impression of order and structure while remaining in the left page gutter. The team eventually landed on an accordion style navigation with parents, children and sub-children that allowed only one menu section to be expanded at a time.
Moving Into Development:
With our approved designs and functionality docs in hand, we began to engage the agency engineering team to finalize a development schedule. With input from the agency team, we decided on a hybrid waterfall methodology. Each of our tasks were prioritized and broken up into four development sprints. Each sprint would be followed by a short QA window and deployment phase. Once all items were approved by the team in our production environment, the next dev sprint began. Tasks were grouped together by their front end impact on the site with items having the highest impact on the visual site design placed in the later stage sprints and twice weekly standup meetings with the agency lead were held throughout the development phase of the project.
While there were some bumps along the way, the final sprint was deployed to production on schedule in Feb. 2017
Looking back on the project, there are plenty of areas where we did well, fell short and can do better next time:
What went right:
The team felt that despite the limited time we had to dedicate to a research phase, we were able to accurately define the most important issues users had with the existing implementation and improve the experience in areas that would have the highest impact with the user base. We felt that despite having to cut a few enhancements due to time and budget, completing the project within our aggressive timeline was something we were all proud of.
Where we fell short:
Miscommunication with our engineering team caused a lack of understanding of how the content type taxonomy was currently structured and how SSO was integrated into the site.
The taxonomy issue forced us to make revisions to how associate users shared content. This initial desire was to enable them to share any supported content type (text/image/video) from a single place. We were able to present a single component for sharing associate generated content but were unable were forced to utilize a tabbed layout where they were forced to select the medium they were sharing.
The SSO issue forced the team to cut some of the BU and location specific enhancements we had planned. Because the intranet site relied on user data passed through SSO and did not store user data on site, we were unable to set default content displays based on user info since the SSO data accompanying the user login commonly didn’t match the location and BU taxonomy structure implemented on site.
Looking back, the team also felt that we cut corners when it came to user testing and iteration. While we were lucky to get the experience close to right the first time around, we would have liked to had the chance to test and iterate a little bit more along the way. We also felt there is always time for user testing so using the excuse that we didn’t have time is a cop out.
What we can do better:
Getting the engineering team involved earlier in the process. This could have helped prevent us from moving forward with designs that could not be implemented due to the CMS’ current limitations. Since development was handled by an outside agency we had to be conscious of our development hours in order to stay under budget but 4-6 hours during the project’s design phase could have uncovered our taxonomy issue much earlier and stopped us from spending time designing some of the location and BU specific features we had to cut due to SSO issues.
Thanks for Reading!