ShareFile Navigation Redesign
One of my favorite projects is the navigation redesign for ShareFile. I love a good information architecture (IA) project! In working on this, the researcher and I introduced some new methods to the team.
Our researcher needed an information architect and she asked me to join in the fun. A visual redesign was in full swing and ready for testing. But the researcher wanted to gut check that the app’s structure made sense to our customers. She knew providing a visual affordance could only go so far if the product didn’t have a strong IA.
We knew if we could establish a sound IA, a UI layer would increase navigation and findability through visual affordances. We also knew the structure would allow for us to scale the product in an organized manner.
For this project, we kicked off a series of IA and research activities including:
- Conducting a content inventory
- Creating a visual sitemap
- Proposing a new iteration
- Facilitating a Modified-Delphi card sort
- Conducting a navigation tree test
Modified-Delphi card sort? What’s that?
Glad you asked! This method isn’t widely known, but it’s a valuable tool for your toolbox. Here’s a definition I wrote for the exploreUX blog.
Modified-Delphi card sorting is a technique where the first participant does a full card sort of organizing and arranging items. The next participant iterates on the first participant’s sort, then the third participant iterates on the second’s, and so on. The idea is that with each iteration the sort gets more refined with fewer participants and consensus is built sooner.
When most people hear about this, they’re skeptical. But I’ve tried this a few times with success. It’s a matter of trusting the process and know that it’ll yield results that you can make decisions with.
Information Architecture Challenges
As the product matured, more and more features were tacked on. The admin area had a laundry list of pages tacked on like a Jenga tower. There wasn’t much sense of how things were added. Card sorting helped organize the admin settings into nice buckets.
We had the typical labeling/consistency issues. A fun one was how much we used “account” without clarifying what it meant. A company could have a ShareFile account and employees had their own account space within the main account. Some employees had access to change settings in the overall account in addition to their own accounts. This confusion surfaced during card sorting. We landed on “personal account” and “company account,” which differentiated the two with stark clarity.
When we created the content inventory, we realized there was so much we didn’t know about the product. Luckily, we knew a PM, who had been with the product from the start, so she was able to define everything for us! We leaned on these definitions during the card sorting activity.
Aside from the IA challenges we were solving for, the hardest part of this project was getting team buy-in. The researcher and I were rather new to the team. We were bringing in new methods, which people were apprehensive about. I get it, when a visual redesign is ready for testing, introducing new IA activities is jarring. Not to mention, we also introduced a lot of tedious work – content inventory, site maps, making cards, etc.
It’s tough building trust when people aren’t able to see the value until we have results at the end. The researcher and I never gave up – we knew it was the right thing to do and we kept everyone involved in the process. Toward the end, the team started to see all our hard work pay off. People could navigate the structure of the IA and they did even better with the help of visual cues in the UI.
Our team saw the value of this work when things started to “click” in testing. The user research was resonating and they could feel confident in the decisions we made along the way. It was a great feeling!
In the end, the activities helped us create a solid IA for the product. It allowed the product to scale and maintain its structure – which is still the structure today!
We shared this case study at IA Summit 2016’s Poster Night. Check out our blog post with some additional tips.
If you’re interested, I’m happy to walk through more details of this project. I’m always game for talking about Modified-Delphi card sorts, too!