Unlock the wisdom of your group – host a “KJ” session for site architectureAdd a comment.
Site maps used to take us forever. Getting the product guy to agree with the marketing lady, not to mention the customer support team, was a matter of weeks and 10 or more revisions.
It's still a very challenging process and the best site maps are developed with thorough user research. But we stumbled on a great way to get a whole group to agree on site architecture quickly, that also helps people start thinking like end users rather than insiders.
The "KJ Method" was developed by Jiro Kawakita of Japan as a way for small groups to reach consensus on complex problems quickly. Organizations use it for things like strategic planning and problem solving. I learned it at a conference a few years ago, and then I thought, "Hmm, maybe this could work for site architecture?" So we tried it.
It works brilliantly. It's faster, can be done cheaply, and everyone has a voice. It is not an equivalent substitute for user research, but it is a great alternative when you don't have a big research budget.
The process goes like this:
- Gather 4-6 people for about an hour and a half. These people should represent your key audiences, or be very familiar with them. It may be wise to hold multiple sessions for different audiences.
- Ask a focus question – "What would people come to this web site to FIND or DO?"
- Participants write as many answers as they can think of in 10-15 minutes, one per sticky note.
- Put sticky notes on the wall in a big blob.
- Without a lot of talking, the participants move related items together into groups. By "related," we mean the goals are related. One mistake people make is grouping items that have the same word in them, like "Forms." An "enrollment form" has a very different purpose than a "leave request form." If two post-its say exactly the same thing, put them on top of each other.
- Name the groups. Sometimes everyone suggests a name and then people vote on the best name.
- Vote on priorities. Which of these items is most important or needs the most attention? We give each participant 6 dot stickers which they can distribute in any manner they like, even putting multiple dots on something that's very important to them.
The end-result of each KJ session is:
- Participants are starting to think about their site from the end-user's perspective.
- You've created a prioritized list of user goals and tasks, some of which you had no idea about before. It's a short step from here to a site map
- It's obvious to everyone what content you do or don't have and where you need to spend your time.
- The whole group agrees on the outcome. No single participant dominates the conversation.
In my next post I'll share a case study about how we did this with the Office of Financial Aid at Virginia Tech.