Case Study — Department of Justice and Security of Basel-Stadt

Interaction Design: Lab Study // Paper Prototype // Workshops

Before rebuilding their intranet we got commissioned to evaluate the current one in a pre-project and help the IT department plan their approach for a redesign.
In this work example I will focus on some detailed findings and how they influenced the proposed solution.


Our client is a canton department (canton is what we call a state in Switzerland) that has several divisions. Most of them operate semi-autonomous where they do get general governance and best practices but the implementation is mostly left to the departments. This was very obvious on the old intranet as the quality of content ranged from almost blank pages to really helpful and graphically enhanced sites. Our task was to create a report for the c-level management and consult them on how to build a new and usable intranet.

We agreed on doing a Lab Study on the current intranet, draw a prototype and then test it. I did a quick post study interview and label test. Finally I conducted an expert Review. The budget for this project was roughly two weeks.

Information Architecture

Most of the users with more than a year on the job had a good idea of what information and documents the different departments provided. Despite this shared understanding the inconsistent navigation across divisions made it hard to know how to access the documents. This lead to users saving templates locally or interrupting colleagues to ask for information.

Also the most common document type labels where ambiguous (directives, guideline, form, processes, check lists).

  1. No participant could tell the difference between directive, guideline and forms.
  2. Process was correctly attributed to some form of operation or action, but it was unclear if this would be a diagram showing the process, a checklist of requirements for a given process, a documentation helping to apply the process or a workflow that could be started using a web form.

Based on the present content we recommended limiting the document types to directive, form and check list and a simplified site navigation:

  1. [Division Name] the landing page of the respective division
  2. Documents contains all documents with quick filters on directives, forms and check lists
  3. Process has a short explanatory text and three areas:
  • List of workflows that can be started from here
  • Link to the Checklists view in the document library
  • Link to Provis (3rd party process management tool containing Visio process maps)


The two main personas are called internal and external. Internal meaning they work in the same division as the page they are currently looking at and external. Both have different expectations on what the intranet should provide.

  • Division internal users have in-depth knowledge of the available documents and workflows offered by their division and will work directly on the document library. As they tend to use a hand full of templates over and over again we offer them a way to favorite documents on their intranet cockpit.
  • Division external users have rather shallow knowledge of what exact documents are available and only a general idea of where that document could be located or what the exact name might be. They need assistance in finding it.

In the next two examples I would like to demonstrate how this insight affected the final outcome.

Division home page

Each divisions landing page acts as an informational starting point and is optimized for external users. It answers the most important questions:

  1. What service does this division provide?
    A brief introduction to the division. All sub-divisions in the text are directly linked to their respective landing page. This is something we added after observing a user trying to click on one of the sub-divisions in the text instead of the left navigation. It is a small detail but it adds to the convenience of using the intranet.
  2. What are the most used assets?
    Each division can provide up to six links to their most important artefacts like documents, workflows or forms.
  3. Where can I get help?
    If the user is uncertain where to find the desired information they can quickly see who the main contact for that division is.
  4. What is new?
    The latest news are shown here.
    (e.g. the fire department has bought new trucks)

Personal Cockpit

This is default browser home page that will be set by IT for every employee.

  1. The “me” column: customizable list that shows favorited content, an overview of all collaboration workspaces and workflows the user is part of. This is targeted at internalusers granting quick access to well-known content.
  2. Live search is directly integrated into the dashboard
  3. The default search result is a list of most used documents and forms covering the entire department. This part of the dashboard is optimized for external users by helping to discover content.
  4. The news column is used for both top down communication as well as news from within the divisions.


In the final report the highest priority issues where soft skills. Things like change management, user on-boarding, committing to the intranet as an important tool and dedicating resources to that. Without a doubt “technical” proposals like the new cockpit will have their impact too, but without c-level commitment to keep the intranet up to date an intranet won’t succeed.

The UX study showed us the biggest flaws our intranet has from a user’s perspective. The paper prototype helped us to quickly gain insight into how our users navigate the intranet and draw conclusions for the new solution.

Martin Zimmermann on a UX pre-project for a new intranet
Assistant Head of Services at Department of Justice and Security of Basel-Stadt

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