After years of complaints about how difficult their business site was to use (to be fair, it was built in the late 1980s), the United States Postal Service commissioned a redesign of the Rapid Information Bulletin Board System, a massive informational resource for business mailers and software developers.
What: Transformed a frustrating Coldfusion system into a responsive web experience with a fully customized Content Management System
Why: The site and system had outgrown itself; usability issues were causing lapses in the communication of critical, time-sensitive information.
When: December 2015- March 2016 (3 months)
The first stage of the project involved an analysis of the existing system - its content, structure, all-around usability, and its context. In order to understand the problem we were solving, it was necessary to see the picture in its entirety.
Coming in with limited knowledge about Postal policy and the mailing industry, I got up to speed on technical subject matter through spending time with users, stakeholder interviews, asking subject matter experts a ton of questions, and independent research. I used what I learned to map out the system as a whole (below.) The bird's eye view allowed us to identify opportunities where we could simplify and streamline the experience.
Ethnographic research revealed three primary user groups: software developers, USPS employees, and major business mailers.
Drawing from interviews, survey results, and contextual observation, I created personas representative of each group. These key audiences had different vocabularies, needs/goals, tech savviness, subject matter expertise, and levels of familiarity with RIBBS, the legacy site. Figuring out how to overhaul the site without alienating power users was a challenge that required a lot of trial and error.
Analyzing how personas accomplish key goals brought pitfalls and pain points to the fore.
I flagged disjointed menus, poor search functionality, unreliable navigation, and an overwhelming amount of technical jargon as major issues.
Through card sorting and immersing myself in the world of business mailer, I identified commonalities in the users' mental models of the content and the language they used to describe it .
How were they classifying and grouping different information on the site? What were they calling it and where did they expect to find it? What should live near it?
With the content audit and heuristic analysis complete, we were armed with just enough research to begin redesigning the experience: site architecture, page layouts, menus, and branding. When we arrived at our skinned beta-ready designs, we coded the templates and implemented them in the CMS (Drupal.)
After three months of research, design, and development, we launched the beta for the 2016 National Postal Forum. We used the initial release as an opportunity to continue refining the design, capturing feedback from users and monitoring analytics to improve the experience.