What’s been happening with this project?
July–August 2017 — First stage of usability testing
From July to August, we dove into the first stage of usability testing by conducting an open card sort test with five University of Toronto (U of T) employees over an eight-day period.
- A new UTemp employee, Baby Boomer (age: 53 to 71)
- A new PM1 employee, Millennial (age: 13 to 35)
- A faculty member, Generation X (age: 36 to 52)
- A USW employee, Generation X
- A part-time Trade Services employee, Millennial
What is an open card sort?
A card sort is a good way to get a sense of how a random group of people understand and categorize information. In our case, we provided each participant with 54 items on index cards (PDF, 111 kB) that they would find in the top three levels of navigation of the HR & Equity site. The card sort was ‘open,’ in that the names of each domain was omitted, which gave participants the opportunity to create their own labels for the ways they grouped site topics.
Reasons for doing an open card sort first:
This test was conducted to make sure that the newly proposed site structure is the best model to use for in-depth usability testing — that it closely matched users’ expectations and that the revised site architecture made logical sense to them.
Problems we aim to resolve:
The main issue for the current site has been search, which has been compromised by its current set up as 26 subdomains and a poor navigation structure. That related information is spread across several domains means that several sites come up within the first page of Google search.
Our aim is to whittle the site down from 26 subdomains to three or four, with related info grouped together so users can find what they need quickly and with less confusion.
How decisions are determined:
The results of each test were compared to the proposed site map of what will be the redesigned HR & Equity site. We looked at which groupings of topics were unanimous among participants and tweaked parts of the new site map where things made the best sense. We also looked at our analytics for each site and noted which keywords users entered to find their way throughout the site.
How the card sort test was conducted:
Each of the five employees completed the card sort test alone, without knowledge of the proposed site map and without prompting. Each person took 30 to 60 minutes to group 54 index cards into categories of their own choosing. No restrictions were imposed on how they should organize these cards. The set of cards was randomized for each participant.
Employees were encouraged to ask questions with the knowledge that they would be noted, but they wouldn’t be answered during the test so as not to compromise the results of the sorting exercise.
- Reduce the proposed four subdomain site to three
- Use plain language (most didn’t understand ‘Awards & Recognition’ as a site label, for example)
- Unless targeted towards an internal HR user group (e.g., HRIS), eliminate all other descriptions that assume users work in HR (e.g., not one of the employee participants knew what ‘Employee Groups’ was)
Want a visual?
- This is the current HR & Equity site map structure (PDF, 887 kB)
- This was the originally proposed four-subdomain site structure (PDF, 286 kB)
- Incorporating results from the card sort exercises, this is the revised three-domain site structure (PDF, 292 kB) we will use to conduct in-depth usability testing. Based on results from that test, we will again revise the site architecture as needed.
What’s happening next?
October 2017 — Usability testing
Presently, we are prepping for the second stage of usability testing so that we can see first-hand how visitors use our site. We will be doing this with a small, diverse group of site users so that we are able to gauge a more realistic and all encompassing understanding of our average visitors.
In-depth usability testing will help us evaluate how users experience our site and improve their ability to access the information they need.
- Card sort testing was the first step in the usability testing process, and it has helped us evaluate proposed site structure changes, ensuring that it will serve as the best model to conduct in-depth usability testing
- Content assessments helped us to better understand how the information on our site should be organized, revised and rewritten
- Feedback sessions gave us a better understanding of how this site is being used by HR staff