Staff-Centered Intranet

UX Design. UX Research. Info Arch. Intranet.
  • ClientCenters for Disease Control
    @Northrop Grumman
  • RoleCo-Designer & Researcher
  • ToolsUserZoom, Optimal Workshop, Adobe+Analytics, HTML&CSS
Intranets don’t always get the tender love and care they deserve. But, this was the focus for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before, internal sub offices had their own budget. But, a new policy shifted the budget to a working capital fund. This meant no real budget. Instead, they’d bill internally for the services rendered. Our mission was simple—tackle the intranet phase by phase to shift an office-centric culture to a staff-centered one.

Empathize and understand

To better understand the challenges and opportunities, we needed to empathize with stakeholders and the staff they supported. We collected data from 2 sources to build the overarching strategy.

Stakeholder Interviews

We spoke with 19 different offices to better understand their goals, needs, and communications processes.


We surveyed over 200 staff members to better their current use, pain points, and opportunities.


What do we need to achieve?

From these interviews and surveys, we identified areas of opportunity.

Improve Search

Search was abysmal. Different terms meant the same things. Staff referred to the badge as smart card, cardkey, or even id badge. While the office used completely different terms. Plus, there were acronyms for everything which made learning hard for new staff.

Improve Navigation

Reorganizations were constant. Staff didn’t pay attention to communications until they needed a service. Each site organized content by their organizational chart. Finding what you needed meant you must know the deep organizational structure of CDC.

Improve Content Quality

Once staff found the content, it was typically hard to read or even outdated. Plus there was a lot of it. The page layouts didn’t help the staff scan to find what they needed. Offices weren’t writing with the staff in mind. Rather, they were writing for themselves.


Getting into the content

In total, ~9000 pages identified. We created content inventories to complete audits of the content.  We shared templates, guidelines, and sample content to help with rewriting content. We held working and training sessions to help focus in on writing for the web.


How do we organize it?

Before we did anything, we identified top tasks from the surveys, stakeholder interviews, and site metrics. Then, we conducted card sorts exercises. Using the data, we drafted the initial organization. Then, to evaluate, we conducted tree tests.  

As we went through the process, we engaged stakeholders in working sessions to help train and share what we were doing. Participation generated more buy-in and support for shifting from the organization-focused to staff-centered model. For example, for card sorting, we:

  • Gave everyone a sample card sort to take on their own
  • Reflected on their experiences
  • Shared card sort best practices at a high-level
  • Brainstormed card ideas
  • Reviewed checklist for what makes good cards
  • Refined based on checklist




Our designs focused on making better landing pages, better topic pages, and the basic structure to the content.

For landing pages, we focused on highlighting 5-9 categories to keep the cognitive load down. But then, provided descriptions using a mix of top tasks incorporating search keywords.

For topic pages, we represented each sub-topic heading, including descriptions of top tasks and keywords. We wanted to continue to support scanning and getting to the right place more quickly. 

For content pages, we kept to a more formal heading system, introduced more call-to-actions (think system, downloads, or tips), and we made sure to include contact information. Again, it was about helping design the information to support staff in getting what they needed and back to what they needed to work on. 

In this example, we moved content from words to a structured table to help staff determine what conferencing tool they might need.

Ongoing Evaluation

How are we doing?

Throughout the process, we checked in on designs. We conducted ad-hoc usability tests, reviewed analytics, and monitored feedback through site surveys. We leveraged this data to improve and inform the designs and overall strategic direction.


What we achieved

Overall, the hard work paid off. New surveys showed improved findability and content. Also, this process reduced the amount of content which helped speed up the time to maintain:

  • A new overarching site hub consolidating top services and tasks for CDC staff
  • A new safety & security site based on new organization, reducing over 2000 pages to less 200
  • A new IT site, reducing over 6000 pages to less than 300
  • A new financial site, reducing over 200 pages to less than 100

But, content is never done. It has to be continually maintained and groomed. And as new things come, so does the organization. We supported offices as new things came up.