After receiving complaints from industry members 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 RIBBS, the Rapid Information Bulletin Board System. Over the course of two years, I led the team in a multi-phase, iterative redesign using Agile methodology. Highly collaborative and lean, we designed and developed in two-week sprints with user goals as our shared focal point.
The first stage of the project involved an analysis of the existing site, both its content and its context. In order to understand the problem we were solving, it was necessary to see the picture in its entirety.
Three primary user groups surfaced during my research: developers looking for software release information, business mailers staying up-to-date with important policy and mailing requirements, and USPS employees. Each of these groups had different vocabularies and different levels of familiarity with RIBBS, the legacy site. Figuring out how to totally overhaul the site without alienating former power users was a major challenge. Ultimately we arrived at a solution through a series of iterations and testing.
Analyzing how personas accomplish key goals on the legacy site brought pitfalls and pain points to the fore. Disjointed menus, poor search functionality, unreliable navigation, and an overwhelming amount of technical jargon were flagged as major issues.
Using card sorting techniques, I looked for commonalities in the users' mental models of the content. 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? We used this data to start reorganizing the sitemap and navigation.
As soon as I had gotten the content audit under control and we’d mapped out which features and templates we’d need, we started wireframing and visual prototyping. We embraced a fail-fast approach, testing and validating concepts with stakeholders and users early and often. When we arrived at our skinned beta-ready designs, we coded the templates and implemented them in the CMS.
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.