Washington State Department of Transportation Employee Intranet

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

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.

Employees described the following challenges with the WSDOT intranet:

“The intranet appears to be organized by people who already know where all the topics are, especially with nested information. It is not user-friendly for newer staff.” -WSDOT employee

“There is a lot of information to be found, if you know where to look.” -WSDOT employee

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.

Client Quotes

“It (insideDOT) is definitely more modern looking. It almost looks simpler to use. It is not overloaded with text.”

— WSDOT employee participant from pre-launch usability study

“It feels clean, fresh, user-friendly, informative.”

— WSDOT employee participant from pre-launch usability study


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

Phase 1: Listening

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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.


Key informant interviews

  1. Understand WSDOT culture and communications
  2. Learn WSDOT's website redesign vision, strategy, and goals
  3. Identify the people, processes, and tools that deliver WSDOT’s customer-facing digital products

Employee survey

  1. Pinpoint the current users of WSDOT's intranet
  2. Classify and comprehend users' top tasks and needs
  3. Assess user's pain points
  4. Collect suggestions for improvement

Employee workshop

  1. Get employee and stakeholder buy-in for integrating HCD principles into the intranet redesign
  2. Build empathy for the target user
  3. Validation of the proposed information architecture
  4. Set expectations about letting the old intranet go

Content audit

  1. Ranked pages by number of views over the last year
  2. Reviewed around 875 pages to categorize content types

Card sort

  1. Understand how WSDOT employees think about and would classify content on the intranet

Tree Test

  1. Evaluate the proposed information architecture with WSDOT employees

first click test

  1. Assess the homepage design's effectiveness in accomplishing top tasks
  2. Get input from users about design impressions

Pre-Launch Usability Test

  1. Assess how effectively employees completed tasks
  2. Accessibility review

Facts & Figures

  1. 20 key informant interviews
  2. 2,846 employees surveyed
  3. 441 employees participated in a card sort study
  4. 15 employees involved in the pre-launch usability test
  5. 92% reduction in content
  6. 30 content leads and editors trained in content governance