Lately, we've been rethinking our landing pages. Today I facilitated the first of a series of card sorting activities to help us evaluate whether the way we are categorizing content on these pages makes sense.

Today's activity was looking at the Students landing page with a group from Associated Students - two students and two staff members who work in the area. I gave them 75 index cards that matched the 75 links currently on the student landing page, representing content ranging from academic advising to bike rentals to early outreach programs to the theater performances.

To begin, the group had started breaking the cards down into academic and student life categories. Then computer resources. 

"What is Judicial Affairs?" Asked Niko Rojas, AS chief communication officer.

"That's Andy's job," said Johanna, referring to a longtime staff member.

The card went back down on the table, uncategorized.

Then Niko came across the card labeled "I need to." Something clicked. He quickly walked around the table, gathering cards and reading aloud, "I need to sign up for class. I need to make living arrangements. I need to relax and have fun."

"You guys, we could organize all the other cards according to these!"

I felt a rush of excitement as the others in the group agreed that the "I need to" terms would make sense to students and would make it easier to find things. There was a great reshuffling.

"I need to relax and have fun. Outdoor Rec and the Cycle Center should go with that."

"But those are leadership opportunities," objected Cristina Rodriguez, who works for Student Activities and Leadership Development. "They're about so much more than just renting a bike."

"We need a category for 'I need to be a leader,'" suggested Johanna Iwata, another Student Affairs staff member. 

"But what if you just want go for a bike ride? Students don't think of that as leadership," argued Niko. Behind him, fellow student Margarita Tapia-Soto nodded her agreement.  

A similar debate ensued around Athletics - there is a difference between just going to a game and being a student-athlete on the team, not to mention the way the Athletics department is its own area, totally separate from Student Life on the organizational chart.

Somewhere around this point Niko said, "This is DIFFICULT."

I couldn't blame him. Coming up with one way to organize the cards was next to impossible given all the different ways the information could be organized, all the potential areas of overlap. The ways students related to the content was drastically different than the way the staff members saw the mission and messaging, not to mention the organizational structure they were familiar with.

About here I jumped in again to reassure them that there was no right or wrong way to organize the cards, and that they could make duplicate cards for content that truly belonged in more than one category, and additional category labels if they needed.

That got the activity moving again. I took a few notes on the different user perspectives the sorting had revealed, the places the group had found quick consensus on category alignment and the places they'd gotten hung up. As we continue with the rethink, this information will be just as valuable as the final organization the group decides on.

Eventually, Niko surveyed the table. "I feel really good about this. Good job everyone." Around the room, nods and smiles. 

In the end, the group came up with "I need to" categories that fit just about everything. Except Judicial Affairs, which had to stand alone.