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We’ve been quietly making some changes to the structure of the content on over the past few weeks. As Aimee Whitcroft noted in her ‘ first redesign, then restructure’ blog post, we knew that the existing structure wasn’t working as well as it could. So while the design was being given an overhaul, we decided to do the same with the content.

Card sorting

We started with card sorting, which tests how people would arrange the content on a website. We chose a cross section of content, created a list of 30 items, asked our users to sort them into groups, and then name the groups. The emphasis was on the citizenship, immigration and passport information, which is the most used content on the site.

What we found was that everyone who completed the sorting exercise thought very differently. We got a wide range of suggestions and groupings, but a couple of suggestions in particular stood out: coming to NZ, leaving NZ and living in NZ. We decided to use these as the starting point for our new information architecture (IA).

Building the new structure

This was the fun bit — the content team got together one afternoon and put every piece of content we had onto a post-it note on the wall. We worked through it all: moving content, sorting content and grouping content until we had a completely new structure for the site. The new structure was based on both the results of the card sort plus what we thought made sense based on the other research that the team's been doing.

Tree testing

When we had a new IA that we were happy with, we had to test it. We couldn’t rely on it being right based solely on the results of the card sort and our best intentions, so we used a tree test to do this. Tree tests involve asking users to find information using only the basic structure of your site. The results show you how well the structure works.

This vs that

We decided to run two test exercises: one to test the existing IA and one to test the new IA. It was important to see how well the existing IA had been working for our users and to have a benchmark to gauge how well the new IA works.

The tree test results for our new IA were really positive — it performed much better than the existing one. We were surprised to see just how much difficulty people had finding information using the existing structure of the site. Only two of the 11 questions we asked showed better results with the existing IA. Interestingly, these were the same two questions that users had issues with using the new IA.

The two questions

1. You’ve heard that having a RealMe account helps you prove who you are online. How can you find out more about it?

We tried moving the RealMe info out of our old Internet, media and communication hub and into the new Family and whānau hub. We put it alongside other info about proving and protecting your identity online.

But 77% of the people who took the test couldn’t find the RealMe info. They looked all over the site, checking every hub for the info. The hub that got the most hits was the Engaging with government hub, suggesting that RealMe is seen as a government service — so that’s where we’ve moved it.

2. How can you make a complaint if you feel you’re being discriminated against?

We tried moving this content from our old Crime, law and justice hub into the Engaging with government hub. We grouped it into a section called “Your rights as a New Zealander”.

We weren’t entirely sure about this, but we thought we’d give it a go. We were right to be nervous: 81% of our users couldn’t find it. Most people looked under Consumer rights and complaints or Crime and justice, but nearly every hub got a hit or two. We decided to move the content back into Crime and justice because that’s what made the most sense to most people.

Everything else

Everything else we tested worked better for our users with the new IA — in some cases much better. We think it’s because:

  • we had content buried too deeply in the site before; for example, info about working holiday visas was buried in the Live in NZ sub-section of the site and no one looked for it there
  • content about similar topics was split between hubs; info about getting money to help pay for your rent was in the Money, benefits and tax hub but people were looking for it in the housing content.

These issues weren't hard to fix but they'll make a big difference for our users.

Next steps

As Aimee said, we’ll keep testing, listening to feedback and improving the site. Even though the new IA tested much better than the existing one, when it goes live we’ll continue to monitor it. If we find that something isn’t working for our users, we’ll change it.

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