Information Architecture

Document repository for internal sharePoint site


The IT division utilizes SharePoint sites internally to manage documents.

The site has grown organically for the last two years with users having the freedom to create documents in whatever folder they wanted to create in a way that made sense to them. The project goal was to simplify and organize the existing content for a short-term solution. Prior to my involvement with this project the team had already begun to identify a new top level organizational folder structure.

I was directed to build upon the existing work the team had accomplished and to move forward with testing to see if the folder structure worked for users.


I knew that if we were to validate the top-level folder structure through usability testing that having the actual content contributors involved in the process was the best way to accomplish this. I knew this would also expose any problems with the names of the new folders. I identified 9 of the most prolific contributors to the site and asked them to participate in a heavily modified closed card sort. I explained the intent of the card sort and asked each participant to place their documents in the new structure of folders. I emphasized that it was impossible for them to place a document in a wrong folder.

I believed that some of the folder names were vague and overlapped with each other which would likely generate confusion for participants. During the course of these sessions I informed the participants that they could create new folders if none of the existing folders or sub folders seemed appropriate.

After I analyzed the results of the card sort/interviews I made name adjustments to the folders, combined two that were too similar and also separated one folder into two separate folders. I then developed tasks for the participants to follow based on where they would expect to find a particular document. I made sure that the tasks were general enough that no domain knowledge would be required in order for them to be successful. I also controlled for sequence bias by making sure that each participant received the tasks in a different sequence.

My involvement with this project was then ended by the company selling 3 of its divisions and the elimination of my position.

Had that not happened, my intent was then to identify participant profile types which would have included:

  • Employees with less than 90 days
  • Employees with more than 1 year
  • Non-Supervisor
  • Supervisor
  • Job roles
  • Age (under 40/ over 40)

10 participants would have been ideal, especially since the group of end users had a population size of 115.

I would have conducted a pilot test with 2 participants to validate the structure of the testing. If no changes would have been made after that testing, I would have considered those results as part of the 10. Normally this is not done, but with this being a small internal project I felt it would have been an efficient use of resources. All testing sessions would have been individual sessions in a small conference room. I would have developed a functional prototype in Axure to simulate the actual SharePoint environment with the proposed UI. All sessions would have been recorded for onscreen behavior such as:

  • Click counting for efficiency
  • Task time
  • “Think aloud” participant comments
  • Success of task completion

My reason for recording these sessions would have been:

  • To not spend my time taking notes and miss something the recording wouldn't capture
  • Distract the participant with my note taking

I would have taken notes of my observations during the session and would have asked the participant for any additional comments at the end of each specific task. At the end of the session,  I would have asked the participant for any overall comments they had on the entire session.

All of the data would have been reviewed, analyzed and reported back to the stakeholder and team. Any approved, requested changes would have been made to the prototype and 5 additional participants would have been recruited to validate the changes. When we would have had final approval of our results I would have worked with the SharePoint administrator to make the changes on the actual site.

If you made it to this point I am encouraged. You now know more about how I think and what I bring to the table. Let's talk about what I can do for you, 1.714.357.7578 Art Zippel.

Art Zippel

Laguna Niguel, CA


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