Federal Agency

Website CMS Migration UX Strategy

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A federal agency that regulates workplace safety and health desired to leverage existing federal agreements with USDA’s National Information Technology Center (NITC) to expand the infrastructure needed to modernize their website by migrating to a Drupal content management system and leveraging program-developed modules and themes to facilitate rapid development efforts.


Our overarching challenge as a team was to design, develop, test, and accredit a federally-compliant Drupal solution in the cloud. As this effort was focused primarily on content migration, other goals were to analyze static and dynamic web content and define templates, workflows, and requirements.

While it was initially conveyed that user experience, navigation, and new site feature design and implementation were all in scope, priorities shifted and UX fell by the wayside. Knowing what I knew about the site itself and its "at-a-glance" issues - big and small - that beleaguered it, I needed to take action to ensure that this content migration was as beneficial to users as possible. That was my challenge.

The Team Dynamic + My Role

As this ran as mostly an agile-Scrum initiative, I was a member of the development team, serving as UX Lead. I worked very closely with product ownership and our Scrum Master to facilitate design-related discussions and to advocate for user needs/implementation of best practices (since the project was beginning to pivot from this). Some of this involved identifying client-side allies who were "down for the cause" to continue to evangelize UX from the inside (which was immensely beneficial).

I also worked with our internal program management to enforce a dedicated "Agile UX" process for this project, as the initial view of UX was to serve as a subset of the requirements team and to operate alongside development, as opposed to a sprint or two ahead.

Developers got some love, too. As a former front-end developer, I was able to propose feasible designs and accurately estimate level of effort for/with the development team. I consistently pinged them to collaborate on concepts and to develop proofs-of-concept.

Strategy + Solution

In order to chart a course to anywhere, it is important to establish your origin.

This agency's website, at that time, had been built with the best of intentions but, after a while, had become a stockpile for content placed without much thought to how their audience would locate, ingest, and process it. To my knowledge, this practice had been going on for years at that point. As such, I figured to kick off my process by conducting a thorough usability review - one a bit more all-encompassing and less-restrictive than a traditional heuristic evaluation.

Proposals to Organize Content

I used the review above in my evangelization efforts. Along the way, I identified a stakeholder whose influence would improve chances of additional updates being made to benefit the site's user experience. This led me to a number of conversations with her team around how to better organize content on the site. Because the stakeholders as a whole were still pretty sensitive about high-level-of-effort initiatives, I took things slow and developed some templates for them to push their content into...at least to assist with readability and organization.

Information GatewayWes and Ed Yahn discussing user insights
General ContentWes and Ed Yahn discussing user insights
Result SetWes and Ed Yahn discussing user insights
ResearchWes and Ed Yahn discussing user insights
Newsroom Article Advanced Search Design

The product owner wanted to enhance search capabilities on newsroom articles. As the primary users of this feature were internal employees, I was able to do a quick survey to determine which features were most useful. I held a few JAD sessions to get this down right, during which I shared my screen virtually with our stakeholders in the Mid-West US and developed wireframes in Axure. Once completed, I passed them over to our development team and worked with them to ensure that the form and function was consistent with what was discussed.

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