Skillport (snort): Cardsorting the Faculty and Staff Landing Page

A few highlights from the card sorts I've been conducting with staff and faculty this week:

Q: "What are auxiliaries?"
A: "Other stuff."

"Training? What kind of training? That doesn't exist here. Put it with Athletics."

Skillport training was universally reviled, CSYou was universally baffling, graduate applications universally irrelevant, and the need for the A-Z Directory to be functional and up-to-date unanimously called for.

Similar to the students who cardsorted last week, it took them about 20 minutes to realize the task was actually more difficult than they thought it would be. Once again, cookies were available to keep spirits up (mint milanos and shortbread thumbprints from Alma's Bakery in Chular, if you're keeping track). Cookies aside, the larger point is that these landing pages contain an overwhelming amount of information.

In order to manage, most groups devised a way to filter out some of the cards. One of the staff groups quickly skimmed out all cards that represented buildings and departments, saying all that content could be found via the A-Z Directory. A faculty member walked around the table picking out the content that he thought was personally useful, sorted those cards into piles representing how often he used them, and left the majority of the cards in "don't matter to me" pile. The second faculty member took the opposite approach but achieved the same effect -- he began by pulling out all the cards with content he didn't know about. Next, the stuff he knew but never used. The cards that remained were sorted into areas of usefulness -- resources I might refer a student to, resources and tools that support my teaching, resources and tools for advising, etc.

The faculty members sorted cards as individual participants (others were invited, but they were the only ones to show up for their respective card sorts), which made it easier to rule cards in or out.

The staff groups had participants representing diverse areas -- academic support staff, student life staff, and those with roles that crossed academics, administration, and extracurricular programs. This made for some interesting conversations around whether a particular card was useful or not.

One staffer summed it up: "There is a difference between needing to know where something is to do your job, or to help a student, and having everything listed on one landing page."

This sentiment was echoed in another group, when Tom Burns said employees should know how to navigate the website and use search to find information instead of relying on a long list of links.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the staff relied heavily on institutional knowledge and knowing which of their colleagues were responsible for what content -- at one point they joked that we should just post the phone number of Rachelle Bass, a long-time staff member and manager of the Campus Service Center, on the landing page and call it a day.

The default for hard-to-categorize cards was often based on organizational structure. HR stuff and IT stuff were common, large categories. I'm working to set up a card sort with newly hired employees to see how those with less experience in the organization fare.

In all, these activities have been very helpful in gaining a deeper insight into how the landing pages function -- or don't, what resources and tools are most important to staff and faculty, and have spurred some ideas about different interfaces that might work better for our users -- stay tuned for a future blog post to get details on those.