In 2016 and 2017, my team revamped our digital presence.
In this study, I'll cover how we handled content and organization. Check out the visual restyling case study to learn about the visual changes.
information architecture, persona development, content strategy, usability testing
Nikhil Deshpande, Chelsea Stephens, April Lentini, Kendra Skeene, Jenna Tollerson, Heather Rodriguez, Johann Lohrmann, Peter Lee
Digital Services Georgia — known as GeorgiaGov Interactive at the start of the project — provides design, development, and consultation to state agencies and elected officials.
But our website was a confusing mess.
When I started working there, it took me an embarrassingly long time to understand what we even did. And I know I’m not alone.
Sure, government is confusing by nature, right? But there’s no reason we had to fall into that trap. As the team promoting user-first design, it was time to walk the walk.
So the end goal was to make the site easier to understand. Cool, easy peasy.
The Digital Services Georgia website exists primarily for one audience: our agency partners. As in, the content managers and web teams at other Georgia state agencies. Other web teams and professionals follow us, but…
If we’re not communicating with our agencies, we’re not doing our jobs.
Agency content managers would come to our website to:
The first one was straight forward. Believe me, no one ever had a problem telling us something went wrong.
But our events and training weren’t very obvious, even though in-person interactions are always the best way to help, teach, and evangelize. And self-directed learning … yeah, you could probably find what you need eventually, but only after hovering over every menu item, then giving up and heading to search. (I watched people do it. It was painful.)
Throughout the project, we worked to better understand our agency partners with personas. I started with an initial draft of 5 personas from our content specialist, then:
Over the course of developing the personas, I also gained more first-hand experience with our agency partners. I started teaching a content specialist workshop and answering support requests. By the time I finalized the layout and sent them off to print, we were confident that these personas accurately described our users.
In the end, I finalized 7 personas: 4 content managers, 1 in crisis, 2 agency directors.
With shifting roles on the team and a couple separate user studies, persona development took longer than expected. Even still, the process helped me better understand our users. While we love working with Driven Debbie’s, most of our partners are Admin Adele’s who get their password from a sticky note every time the site needs a new PDF. How do we help them?
And here’s where I really had fun.
I came into the project partway; Our content specialist had already rewritten a good chunk of content, taking us a big step in the right direction. But it still wasn’t organized intuitively.
I worked with our director and marketing specialist to reorganize some existing pages. We simplified our top-level labeling for quick scannability, and pulled out important pages that were previously hidden.
Inside these larger sections, we continued to reorganize and restructure pages as it made sense to us. All the while, I turned pages of text into structured landing pages, rethought how we presented training materials, and added a glossary and other needed information.
Where we weren’t sure of wording or placement, we tested it with the people who use the site.
At a certain point, our internal discussion started to feel like an eye exam. Do we call it “Toolkit” or “Web Toolkit” or “Service Toolkit” or… wait for it… “Tools”? You’re telling me these are different, but really they look the same!
Time to take it to the people.
We got in touch with some content managers — from our frequent visitors to a few who couldn’t find us if they tried — for a little A/B testing. I asked them to perform 10 common tasks, based on site analytics and various interactions with our audience. First, we walked through all 10 tasks on the existing version of the site. Then, the same tasks on the unpublished, re-architected version.
After completing the tests, I took our notes and recorded sessions, ranked the success of each task for each person, and compiled the results to see what worked.
Once I had my notes in order, we fixed up the few remaining problems, then it was go time!
We launched the new site organization along with the new visual style. From before to after launch:
Of course, a website is never finished…
After launching the shiny new website, we didn’t leave it be. We’ll always add new blog posts and event information, but that’s expected. Beyond that, I like to dig around and find room for improvement.
For example, our training information. Remember, training and self-help are two big reasons people come to the site.
Even after usability testing and a few organizational methods, I was never happy with how we presented our training materials. For starters, they were a hodge-podge of old PDFs, video tutorials, and wiki pages. And as we moved to create more wiki pages for an easier support process, our content was duplicated in two disconnected locations.
Beyond our own internal issues, we’d split up the manuals to assume content managers would think the same as us. Not good.
I consulted with the team and landed on a solution to please all: ditch the PDFs 🙌, move all training to the wiki, and link to everything from a single page on our website. In case someone doesn’t see what they need, I added a callout to contact us and additional information for newbies.
It’s this kind of mindful attention that keeps our website at its best. I see so many websites that were redesigned in 2012 and haven’t been touched since. Until this project, our site was one of them! I enjoy not letting that happen again.