Our cards for HR

Card testing before you build

Jess Redway, December 3 2015

We’re starting to get pretty good at testing sites with users and service experts before they go live. We work closely with the contact centre, rope in staff from the services, and have even been known to assail passing strangers to ask them if they can work out how to report a drop kerb. The problem is that once you have built a site you have already invested quite a bit of time and effort. Wouldn’t it be better if we could test a new site before we even switch on a computer to start all that bother of building it?

When the Web Managers (me, Suzanna, Jo, and Michael) got together with our esteemed colleague Carl Smith to have a chat about testing, Carl put forward the idea of card testing for just this situation.

What is card testing?

Card testing is a quick and simple way of testing the first couple of levels of site navigation to see if people can find their way to the information they are looking for. You give each of the first level of navigation a card and then on the other side of the card you put all the pages sitting under that header. You then lay them out with the list of pages hidden and ask people to pick where to go for a simple user story.

Rather taken with this idea I decided to give it a go to test our the navigation for the new Corporate Resources site, which will involve a restructure of all out HR policy and how to information.

We popped our main sections on folded bits of paper (no cards being to hand at the time) with a small selection of high level tasks and took them out for a walk to test both our planned site structure and also whether card testing is worth the effort.

Our cards for HR

Was it any good?

The answer is a resounding yes. It was an amazingly easy and joyfully cheap way of testing if our basic site structure was going to work. In this case it confirmed it was pretty much ok but just needed a few tweaks where people were a tad confused. We did realise early on that having the first task starting with ‘I am being made redundant…’ was probably a bit of a downer, but we live and learn.

…and another thing

As an aside I have also realised this is a really handy method of communicating the shape and structure of the site to other people in a very accessible way. I have taken the cards to a board meeting to get the structure signed off and it worked really well to help HR managers to interact with the site and understand what we are building.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to take them along to a staff briefing on the new site and get everyone there to do some card testing as a way for the HR staff to get to navigate the site even before it exists. This is really one of those ideas that is so simple and useful you wonder how you hadn’t thought of it before!

One thought on “Card testing before you build

  1. Carl

    Hey Jess, this is a really positive (and amusingly written) account.

    I am pleased that this technique has worked well, it is something that we can make a standard tool in our web development toolbox.

    A really good way to show the value of cheap prototyping.


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