National Geographic Expeditions operates hundreds of trips each year, spanning all seven continents and more than 80 destinations. Using their resources, they create unique and authentic expeditions to fascinating parts of the world to inspire people to care about the planet.
This analysis focuses on conducting an information architecture analysis on the National Geographic Expeditions to improve its site's structure/navigation system. This analysis resulted in a fully revised sitemap of the site's structure.
For this site analysis, I completed several methodologies in order to: determine any usability issues and compliance to meet best practices, to show and communicate how the content is organized, to portray a users journey through the site, and to discover how users interpret and categorize the information based on their mental models.
the UX Design Process
Research & Ideation
Goals for Nat Geo Expeditions
Assess and potentially improve the National Geographic Expeditions site's structure, through all methodologies of an information architecture analysis.
Empathizing with the Persona
For this redesign, the persona was already developed and presented to me. This persona served as a guide to further understand how the National Geographic Expeditions should be helping their users meet their own goals, through use of the site. Meet Jayse! An investment advisor who enjoys traveling and really wants to experience something he’ll never forget:
Performing a Heuristic Evaluation
The first thing I did was conduct a heuristic evaluation on four different pages on the Nat Geo Expeditions site. This evaluation method was used to identify any existing usability problems that Nat Geo was having on their site. In the evaluation I examined the interface and judged its compliance to meet best practices with recognized usability principles such as findable, accessible, clear, communicative, usable, credible, valuable, learnable, and delightful.
Analyzing Nat Geo Expeditions' Sitemap
I created a visual sitemap to show and communicate how the content on Nat Geo's website is currently organized. Creating a sitemap was useful in that it helped to understand one of a website's basic structure, hierarchy. Below is a hierarchy sitemap of the current National Geographic Expeditions site, including the primary, secondary, and utility navigation.
Understanding the Userflow
To create a user flow for the Nat Geo Expeditions site, I needed to fully understand what the main user's needs, goals, pain points, and behaviors were. Looking back at the persona, I focused on Jayse wanting to experience a memorable unique trip where he would have the chance learn about local people, culture, and people.
Below is a reminder of the scenario, the task I came up with, and the user flow:
Conducting an Open Card Sort
I conducted an information architecture research method known as open card sorting, to discover how users interpret and categorize information (mental model). To begin this process, I labeled 41 different index cards, each with a secondary navigation page name from the Nat Geo Expeditions website. During this time, I realized that a lot of the content on the cards that related to “Trip Types” felt extremely vague. In attempt to give these cards more context, I added keywords and synonyms of the word ‘trip’ such as: journey, expedition, excursion, voyage, and travel. Once the cards were created and all labeled with content, it was time to conduct the open card sorting. I conducted an open card sorting on 5 different participants. Each participant was to organize the content cards into as many groups as they wanted, while also creating their own category names for each group. A few participant groupings, as well as my results are seen below:
After further analyzing my results from my open card sorting, there were several things that I noticed that may have caused the results seen in my data: misinterpretation, a misunderstanding, and variability in mental models and in the vocabulary people use to describe the same concepts.
Conducting a Closed Card Sort
I conducted a closed card sorting on 5 different participants. For this round, participants were given both content cards and category cards in order to sort the cards into the categories that made sense to them. A few participant groupings, as well as my results are seen below:
A Revised Sitemap
My final step in this process was creating a revised sitemap based on the results I received from both my open and closed card sort. In the end, the biggest changes made here were the adding of the two new categories Trip Experiences and Exclusive Traveling in the primary navigation to clarify the things you can do on a trip, and what trips Nat Geo includes travel/transportation as part of the actual trip. The smaller changes are seen in what content lies in which category compared to where they were before.
In the end, I was able to successfully assess the National Geographic Expeditions website with the help of the five design methods I used to help me analyze and understand the structure of the site. The heuristic evaluation helped me to identify any existing usability problems that their site was having. The sitemap allowed me to get an understanding of how the content on the website is currently organized. The user flow helped me understand what the user’s journey through the site currently looks like. Lastly, the open/card sorts helped me with three things. First, it helped me discover how users interpret and categorize information (mental model). Secondly, it helped me to generate ideas for the websites improvement. Thirdly, it allowed me to develop changes for the final site structure (seen in revised sitemap).