Information Architecture Redesign of University of Alaska Anchorage Website

Usability and Information Architecture

Timeline – 3 weeks

Collaborators  - Mitchell Topete


For a project for Usability and Information Architecture guided by Prof David Kirsh at UC San Diego, I and my teammate Mitchell were asked to redesign the information architecture of the not so well designed university website of University of Alaska Anchorage (

To do the same, we conducted extensive research user research, need gathering, user type classification and competitive analysis and used this information gathered to obtain personas, use-case tables and then are eventually created prototypes for the redesigned website.

Design Process

Requirement Gathering (Interviews and Personas) -

We began our requirement gathering by finding out the various users who visit the university website and then classified them into different user types and stakeholders. Then I and Mitchell conducted various interviews of stakeholders for different categories and created personas for each of the use groups. The main user groups of personas were as follows –

1.       Faculty

2.       Prospective International Student

3.       Prospective Transfer Student (Community College Transfer)

4.       Parent

5.       Current Student

6.       Alumni

Examples of personas

Use-Case Table

After getting all the personas, our next step was to design a use-case table based on various user scenarios performed by different types of users (personas). For this we generated around 20 or more distinct use-cases for each of the personas that totaled up to more than 100 use cases. For each use-case, as per the interviews and exploration of the website we calculated the following attributes -

1.       Importance - Estimated the importance of the use case to a specific user type on a subjective scale of low = 1, medium = 2, high = 3.

2.       Frequency: Frequency is an estimate of how often a particular user might visit the page for this use case on a scale of low = 1,  medium = 2, high = 3.

3.       Importance*Frequency: To try to quantify the grounds for IA choices you need to calculate the importance*frequency and again map the value (now 1- 9) to a low, medium, high 1-3 scale.  1= (1-3), 2= (4-6), 3 (7-9).   

4.       Interaction Cost: It refers to how much clicking or filling in fields or mousing over or visual searching a user needs to do to get    the information they want or to complete the task they are doing by measuring the number of actions by user to complete the use case. We measured it on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 meaning the use case is the most costly in terms of interaction.

5.       Page Distance: It refers to how many pages in from the home page do you have to go to find the appropriate information to fulfill the use case. We also used fractional measures in some cases - For Eg 1.5 for scrolling one or two screen heights, 2 if the info is one new page away.

Snapshot of the Use Case Table

Based on the information obtained from the use-case table, we eventually wanted to redesign the information architecture of the UAA website that would reduce the key factors such as Interaction Cost and Page Distance of the use-cases and scenarios.

Competitive Analysis

After the use-case table, we compared really well designed university websites to see structure of each of them and then we performed extensive competitive analysis of these sites (5 in our case – UCLA, USC, UMD, U-Michigan and USF) by finding out various elements and navigation labels in the following categories of labels - Banner, footer, user types and other non-banner labels. And then we kept note of the most common labels by keeping a tally table for each of the labels. Doing this helped us determine what kind of information and navigational elements are most important to include on a homepage and on the primary second level pages.

Few Snapshots of the Competitive Analysis - Primary Labels and User Types

After doing the analysis for primary labels and user types, we did more competitive analysis for the secondary level pages i.e. the page linked to by each primary label on the homepage, banner and user type. For example, the below image shows a part of the competitive analysis of second level navigation “About” among the 5 universities.

              Snapshots of the Competitive Analysis - About Page - Second Level Navigation

Similarly we did this for all secondary level pages(Banner items), user types , and key non banner items as well and made their tally table as well. That led us to create at least 50-60 tables altogether in competitive analysis.


After performing a competitive analysis on the University of Alaska site, creating user personas, and tallying hundred use cases, we finally use the research and information to redesign the site. Our redesign consisted of  Homepage, few primary second level pages for banner items, few second level pages for user types and a couple for key non banner items. We also added few extra pages to accommodate few user scenarios found in the use-case table.

We used Balsamiq mockups (shown below) for the redesign of the University of Alaska Anchorage website.


Revised Use-Case Table

We revised the Use-Case table made in the previous step and added more attributes to it based on the redesigned balsamiq UAA website to compare our site to the original website to show how our site offers improved navigation. To do this we

1.       Added two extra columns in which you estimate the page distance and interaction cost in our redesign.

2.       And also added two more columns in which you subtract your page distance and interaction cost from the original and multiply that difference by the importance*frequency (i.e. weighting of each use case).

3.       And finally we also calculated totals for all persona and separate totals for each of our different persona.  It was noticed that while some personas improves slightly  in our design and some hugely improved and hence improving the information architecture of the website.