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08-11-2009

Recently, I conducted a project with a client in a particularly political environment.  This meant that every decision made during the redesign had to be well reasoned. The client needed to see exactly how each of the various features, functions and content items (FF&C) were understood during the research process.  In particular they wanted to know;

”How do you choose the right cards to do a card sort with?”

This made me realise that, in many user centred design projects, the research is simply used to educate the Information Architect (a person). Often the client doesn’t see an overt relationship between the research findings and the final design choices. They simply trust the IA.

User centred research

To show the relationship between each research exercise and each FF&C I created a simple Excel spread sheet like this (click to enlarge).

Across the top I used the following headings:

Research types

  • User focus groups suggestions
  • User Survey support
  • Online user forum support
  • Competitor analysis support
  • Stakeholder suggestions from Face to Face Research
  • External stakeholder suggestions
  • Recommended content & features (cards for sort shaded)

Strategic decisions

  • Priority (1, 2, 3)
  • Justification
  • Additional info
  • Phase
  • Responsible

Features, functions & content

Then I listed all the possible FF&C down the left, including:

  • everything on the existing site
  • all the stakeholders’ business requirements (preferences)
  • competitor ideas
  • requirements uncovered and tested, and
  • new ideas.

Next I simply went through each FF&C and checked whether it ‘passed’ each research ‘checkpoint’.

This can be done very quickly with a client in a workshop.  That way the client has full visibility of what is in or out in the design, and most importantly, why?

The last thing to be done is putting a priority on each FFC.

Just last week I used it for another client. We did less research therefore there were less columns. Here’s a partially completed example (click to enlarge):

Graph of content, features and funcitons in IA

Table of content, features and functions in IA

This method was incredibly successful!

It allowed us to generate valuable and insightful discussion with the client and their senior colleagues. In this case, the colours on the left were used to show the priority that people gave in the cards sorted in the face-to-face workshops.

By looking at the spreadsheet you can very easily see if each of the things that stakeholders thought they needed was also a requirement of users. And also what new ideas users had come up with, and whether they are in or out.  The list provides the information architect with a checklist, a heuristic framework, to ensure nothing is missed.  It also lets the client quickly see that everything is justified.

How do you choose cards for a card sort? Don’t just guess, make use of all of the research that you have completed.

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