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Using the Human-Centered Design Approach to Redesign an Employee Intranet

Case Study

Washington State Department of Transportation

The Problem

Anthro-Tech teamed up with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), a state agency employing over 7,000 people across Washington state, to redesign their employee intranet which was difficult to use and not governed properly. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was clear this digital tool would be essential for employees to have the tools and resources needed to get their job done and communicate with one another.

The Solution

Following the human-centered design process, we improved the employee intranet, insideDOT, in the following ways:

  • Reduce the overwhelming amount of content
  • Designate content leads and editors responsible for curating and managing new content
  • Participate in writing for the web and content management training for all contributors
  • Implement an easily navigable website structure confined to five category buckets: News & Updates, Tools & Services, Safety & Health Resources, Human Resources, and About Us.

The new employee intranet makes accomplishing important tasks easier such as accessing paystubs or finding co-workers’ contact information. Users can efficiently find the information they need because of the improved navigation and the implementation of best practices in content strategy.

To arrive at these changes, we created a communications and employee engagement plan. The plan included adding a co-sponsor to the project from human resources as a response to employee insights that the intranet could be a valuable onboarding tool. For this reason, the project team focused on a new WSDOT employee as the target user when making design decisions. More broadly, the communications and engagement plan outlined all the opportunities when employees would be invited to share feedback, and for us to explain what changes were to be made and what user data backed those decisions. This plan resulted in 8,000 touch points with employees over 11 months.

Our team also held monthly project status updates and collaborative planning sessions with employees and stakeholders from all WSDOT departments.

WSDOT Intranet homepage

WSDOT InsideDOT homepage.


Using change management and Human-Centered Design (HCD) principles and research, we engaged with WSDOT employees through five project phases:

Phase 1: Listening

Our team began fact-finding to understand the pain points of using WSDOT’s intranet. We conducted key informant interviews and surveyed employees.

Phase 2: Summarizing

We summarized user research findings along the course of the project at management and department meetings, in intranet blog posts, and at an employee workshop.

Phase 3: Testing

User testing was conducted including a tree test, first-click test, and a pre-launch usability test. These were employee engagement opportunities for a chance to get a sneak peek and be involved in shaping the new insideDOT. This allowed our team to get insights and feedback directly from WSDOT’s employees who are the key users of the intranet. It also signaled that change to the employee intranet was on the horizon but being managed through a Human-Centered Design process.

Phase 4: Sharing

Alongside the Director of Communications at WSDOT, our team set up a “virtual roadshow” to present at over 20 meetings with WSDOT staff. It was also an opportunity to make the case for the HCD approach, share the project vision, and set expectations about the change and launch.

Phase 5: Supporting

Approaching launch, we shared content guidelines and standards with content contributors to support the ongoing maintenance of the new intranet’s design. We supported the appointment of a content lead for each section of insideDOT and trained them on how to manage the ongoing maintenance of content.