Role: Information Architect, UX Strategy, Lead UX Designer

Problem

Many brands had been acquired over the years and each had their own digital presence. These acquisitions resulted in a very disjointed experience. Our team was tasked with creating one platform on Sitecore to serve six sites for an American and Canadian defense company. We were also tasked with combining the content of all six sites to create a cohesive story. It was a ten-month engagement.

  • Four different content management systems were being used. 
  • Each experience had its own design, logo, approach, and branding. 
  • The project needed to be run agile, but the client and our subject major experts were unfamiliar with the agile process.

Sprint 0: Information Architecture

This was the most interesting and challenging information architecture I had worked on. Thankfully I had the opportunity to work with digital strategists from the beginning. I also had the chance to participate in the persona work with an experienced user researcher. I started the IA work with a very intense content audit. This was done primarily by hand and double-checked with a site crawler. My next step was a competitive and contextual analysis. 

There were two ideas for how to organize the content and best tell a story. Storytelling was very important to this client. I planned and led a two-day in-person workshop to test the two concepts. One was based on geography and the other based on tasks. The geography concept provided more storytelling opportunities but created a 40% redundancy of products. The task-based concept was a 15% redundancy but the client and team were struggling to see the opportunity for storytelling. The goal was to come out of the workshop with one concept. There wasn’t time for any more deliberation.

Opening the Workshop

The workshop was kicked-off with a recap of the previously presented work including:

  • Content Audit
  • Competitive and Contextual Review
  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Persona Workshops
  • Analytics
  • Definition of an Information Architecture

Race to the Product

I am a huge fan of the book Innovation Games.  It is a great resource for planning workshops. Based on knowledge from this book my plan was to have the team test both concepts using a reverse card sort. To make it more engaging I planned on splitting the group into teams and timing them.

I printed off cards for the first tier categories, second-tier categories, and a sampling of products. Everything was pinned up. For each “click” I placed a piece of paper hiding that category. I then split the room up into two different teams and each team was given several products to find within concept A, and then concept B. I timed the group and listened to their questions as they worked together. I then had the teams switch concepts. Both teams felt like the Task concept was easier to navigate than the Geography.

Sprints: Platform Design

The majority of the team was located in the same office, but the client was spread across two states. The clients’ technical expertise in the products was vital to this project. InVision was used to keep everyone informed and organized. My expectations for the functionality was detailed in Jira where everyone including the clients could access the information.

Each sprint I had key templates and components that needed to be created, approved and documented for both the client, development, and the soon authors. I documented the design system as I went because it would double as a training guide. As components were developed I assisted in testing their “Authorability” in Sitecore. Throughout the planning, the author’s ability to make additions and changes was a large consideration, balanced precariously with scope.

Navigation Improvements

The following were improvements made to the new architecture. The drop-down navigation was easy to edit in the Sitecore author role, but guidelines were created to assist the site authors.

  • A “featured area” that can be used to present new or highly-trafficked pages.
  • Programs were a new concept and path.
  • The ability to easily author the drop-down navigation.
  • Increased ease of use on mobile and tablet.
  • Consistency in visual browsing navigation.
  • For Search Results, images and filters were added.
  • Consistency

A Category now displays its subcategories higher and consistently on the page as well a large number of flexible components to tell a story about that category. There is now a Subcategory template that provides a mix of story and tactical information in a consistent manner.

New Templates

  • Land, Sea, Air, Cyber, and Space were opportunities for thought leadership and programs, delivering on the needs of all personas.
  • Creating a Program template was a huge improvement because previously Programs were treated like a Category creating a very confusing user path. Programs were so vital to the business they also deserved their own template and chance to be part of the storytelling experience.
  • The Lines of the Business template is a highly customizable experience that allowed each business a chance to tell their story.
  • A number of highly flexible components that create calls to action throughout the site as well as lead-generation.

Measuring Success

I always feel good about the end result when the client signs on for another phase. The second phase revolved mainly around content improvements and continued “authorability”.