The Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education


In 2016, I was hired by the ministry to help modernize the user experience for their intranet website.  At the time, the site was believed to be used by everyone in the field to get the latest announcements, documentations and policies. 

However, this was far from the truth.

My Role:

UX Researcher – To research and better understand how the ministry’s website was being used and make recommendations on the next steps.

The Process

User Profiles

Understanding key positions within Employment Onatrio was key in figuring out how things were done accross the province.

System Mapping

With no clear picture of how everything worked together, I had to create a mind map and user journeys to understand intranet usage.

In Person Observations

Going across Ontario, I observed 63 indivudals in various jobs to gain a better understanding of the individual roles.


Using both card sorting and software, we started to get a better understanding of what the new intranet should look like.

Working Groups

Having brought in stake holders and users from accross the province, I was tasked to utilize their knowledge to better the intranet.

Strategy Sessions

I brought together the 3 divisions within the ministry, to start figuring out an overall strategy for their intranet.

This process was adapted to the needs of the project.

My process changes based on the needs of the company’s project.

Step 1: User Profiles

Before I could go out and start interviewing people, I had to figure out who it was that I needed to understand.  This was done by talking to people at the head office about the different positions affected by the intranet website.  As a result of this initial research, there were 10 profiles that needed to be defined with further investigation.

Instead of blindly going out into the field, I talked to individuals at head office first so that I could gain a foundation of how the system worked.  This allowed me to be better prepared for conducting the field research.

Below is a shortened example of one of the profiles created.

User Profile Example


- Regional Program Advisor
- Age: 55, married, 2 kids (19 & 21)
- Been working in this region for 17 years
- Wife works as an accountant
- Very detail-oriented
- Analytical, resourceful, innovative


- Wants to create useful tools & resources
- To streamline processes
- Create opportunities for staff training
- Focus on developing tools for their staff
- Better connections with corporate office
- Better connections with other regions


- Traveling, has to catch up with work
- Many layers of approval
- Multiple layers of consultation
- Constant change in programs and priorities
- Information overload
- Intranet too difficult to figure out

How do we Empower them:

- Put tools in one place, where it’s easy to find
- Use more solutions from working groups
- More information that is easy to digest
- Don’t waste time with unimportant info
- The intranet deal with the workers’ issues
- Process maps (a lot of people are visual)

Step 2: Mapping the Services

Before I could go out and observe people in their jobs, I had to better understand what they were doing.  To do that, I had to interview a number of co-workers to create a detailed map of all the different services offered by the ministry and their connections.  Once I understood what all the programs were, I then did journey maps for each of them so that I could better where people use the internal ministry website.

Step 3: In Person Observations

With the journeys and profiles completed, I now knew who I needed to observe and what to look for.  However, to make sure we evenly researched all regions, I was asked to observe 63 different individuals across Ontario in four different regions.  Each region dealt with job requirements differently, resulting in very different needs for the users.

As I conducted the user research, I brought with me colleagues to observe a day in the life of those who used our site.  As a result, my co-workers immediately became very aware of why individuals were not using the site and the frustrations behind it.

One key observation made was that almost all employees had no idea where to get official information from.  The ministry’s website often didn’t have everything that they needed.  Their internal sites for that region was different from the ministry’s, and then their office’s site had another set of information different from all others.

Step 4: Taxonomy

Two key problems employees had with the site were too many pages (well over 1000) and an unfunctional search engine, that had no keywords being used to help identify what pages were what.  As a result, I did a closed sort exercise for keywords to be used for different pages and the taxonomy of the website itself.  These exercises were both done in person and virtually, with approximately 100 individuals, giving us a clear idea of how the taxonomy of the website should be shaped.

Step 5: Working Groups

Now that we had collected this information from the field, we started to come up with a variety of solutions.  To find out if we were going in the right direction, we used a working group to do our user testing.  This user group would come into the head office once a month, from all across Ontario.  This helped us make sure that all points of view were taken into consideration when we came up with final solutions.

Step 6: Strategy Sessions

Now that I had a good understanding of the needs of the users, it was time to bring together key individuals within the ministry to talk about a holistic approach to the website.

The key thing was to make them understand who their users were and why they were frustrated.  This was accomplished by making posters of each of the user profiles and hanging them across the room for everyone to see.  Within each session with this group, we decminated information that we gained from our research and then talked about possible solutions that were agreed upon across each of the divisions within the ministry.  This, in itself, was a momentus win because getting all three divisions to agree on solutions hardly happened.


At first, there was a major uphill battle to be allowed the ability to do user research.  However, as I convinced more and more people the importance of doing something like this, and them seeing the results of the work, created a major swing in beliefs that User Experience was indeed something very powerful to use.

In the end, the site was finally finished in the summer of 2018 and the mentality of people at head office had changed to be more accepting of gaining perspectives from their users.


We had a clear understanding of who the users were and their journeys to get the information they needed to do their jobs.

Changing the Culture

Getting individuals out from head office to observe people in the field changed how everyone looked at the website and their practices.

Working Groups

Created a lot of hope for those that participated in the working groups due to the solutions that everyone contributed towards. 

Working Together

With these strategy sessions, everyone started to understand that there were a lot of problems with the website and duplicate sites.