Identifying the root cause.
The seattle.gov homepage is visited by
77,300 residents every week on an average.
According to usability studies conducted by the city in the last
year, residents have reported experiencing fatigue and confusion
looking for information on the city website.
The website content is currently organized based on the
internal departments existing in the city government.
The residents are unaware of the departmental structure within
the city government and so the navigation experience is not
intuitive for them.
Residents miss out on beneficial resources offered by the city
because relevant information is not easily discoverable.
Current experience: Department based navigation.
Structuring the navigation based on the mental model of the residents
of Seattle will make it easier to find information and services on the
city’s website and contribute to a good experience.
What makes a Seattle resident?
To rethink the taxonomy it was important to understand the
resident’s mindset when they land on the website. Based on past
research we know they came with a goal in mind and this goal
differed based on the type of resident. To make sure we capture all
needs we took a personified approach by consulting the personas
previously created by the team for city residents.
Affinity mapping helped consolidate the information from our research
and resulted in 8 high-level themes which were the foundational
categories of the new navigation architecture.
Affinity mapping to define high-level categories.
The first draft of the sitemap.
Putting the sitemap to the test.
Next, we tested if our sitemap accommodated the mental models that
the residents have when they come to the city's website with a goal.
We used Userlytics to perform unmoderated usability testing with
participants from each of our persona segments.
Card sorting x 10 participants
Tree testing x 9 participants
Testing with low-fidelity prototype x 6 participants
Card sorting via Userlytics
Before each exercise, I suggested we ask the participants what each
category means to them and what they think they might find in that
category. This helped us understand their assumptions about the
terminology detached from any bias that our card sorting/prototype
might put forward.
Changes after feedback.
Government Help was the default choice for participants
who did not know where to place a card. To be more indicative
of its actual content of discount programs, it was changed to
We realized that Data and Research did not have much
chance of being used by the average resident and eliminated it
as a high-level category.
Learning & Education and
Transportation & Development were two new categories I
pushed to add as they were prime concerns for multiple
participants when asked what they would expect to find on a
Highlights of changes after multiple rounds of usability testing.
By audience or by topic.
While categorizing, the “by audience” approach seemed more in
alignment with the city personas. However, we often ran into a
situation where a resident could identify with multiple audiences.
Therefore, we decided to go further with the “by topic” navigation
model while the “Information by audience” as a subcategory instead.
Different navigation models.
The latest sitemap for seattle.gov.
We had to incorporate the new and much larger sitemap on the website.
We hoped to enable the residents to accomplish their goals without
being overwhelmed by excessive choice.
Updating the website design.
Once we had a good hold on the taxonomy we started brainstorming
ideas for appropriate navigation elements to improve the UI. We went
through the first round of sketches to showcase our ideas and vote
as a team. We concentrated on three key design areas in our
DESIGNING A MEGA MENU.
The taxonomy that we had come up with had 8 top-level
categories that had multiple sub-sections. To accommodate this
structure, each of us sketched iterations for a mega menu.
STRATEGIC PLACEMENT OF TOP TASKS.
Since the taxonomy was fairly comprehensive, the team thought
it would be a good idea to highlight the top tasks of each
AGGREGATE PAGES TO CONSOLIDATE SIMILAR INFORMATION.
These pages would serve as the hub for a set of similar
services that span across departments and are united by a goal
or a particular audience.
PROTOTYPING AND TESTING
Fleshing out the solution.
Next, we recruited residents that qualified as any of the city
personas to try out the new navigation. We ensured that each persona
was represented in the participants. We conducted 12 moderated
in-person usability testing sessions.
Usability testing session with a community advocate persona type.
NEW DESKTOP NAVIGATION
The mega menu is the primary navigation that houses the sitemap. Apply
and pay, Information by audience are two categories with drop-down
navigation outside of the mega menu.
In the mobile view, the mega menu transforms into a nested hamburger
menu with all eight categories.
UXpin prototype as handoff for implementation.
A human-centered navigation.
The results of the usability testing showed a much more intuitive experience looking for
information. After discussions with the departments and sharing the
results the roadmap for the first implementation of the new redesign
has been set.
Through this project, I had an opportunity to work on
information architecture on a large scale.
I learned to design for equal representation of multiple
target users i.e Seattle residents with varying needs.
As a next step, I would track user interaction with the
website and do further usability testing to iterate on the
A second goal for this project was to ensure all designed layouts
are accessible as required for government websites. To that end, I
created a set of accessibilty guidelines in the form of a checklist
that can be used by designers & developers to ensure they are
meeting the standards. This
is based on the WCAG 2.1 guidelines and is AA compliant.