Evaluative Research & information ARCHITECTURE

Alaska’s Covid Resources

Content Audit
Open Card Sort
Tree Testing

Hypothetical Client
The State of Alaska

3 weeks 2020 😷

Project Goal
Redesign the information architecture of Alaska’s two state-published covid information websites, from the Governor’s Office and the Department of Health and Social Services, into one organized resource to better serve the residents and visitors of Alaska

Content audit Card sort similarity matrix Dendrogram Competitive analysis Sitemap with redesigned information architecture Wireframe

Independent project not affiliated with the state of Alaska, unsuccessfully attempted to make contact to volunteer. Understandably — there was a roaring pandemic keeping them busy




The year is 2020. COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been released yet. Staying informed is one of the few ways we can feel empowered as the world faces a pandemic. Who do we trust to inform us? How do we access that information?

Residents of Alaska do not have one centralize resource for information about the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they have two redundant websites published by their state. The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) COVID-19 website and the State of Alaska Governor’s Office COVID-19 website serve the same purpose, featuring information about the virus, the state’s health orders and alerts, and safety guidance for individuals and businesses.

The websites appeal to the same audiences but confusingly utilize different vocabulary and organization systems to share the same information during a time when access to knowledge means not only feeling safe, but protecting yourself and others too.


Content Audit

A content audit of the two sites showed that each site features over 100 links on its homepage. The Department of Health & Social Services website (left) links to the Governor’s Office site 7 times while the Governor’s Office website (right) links to the DHSS site 28 times.

Two website screens with arrow pointing from one to the other and vice versa to illustrate where they link to one another

Open Card Sorting

To get a sense of how people seek and organize COVID-19 information, I recruited users to do an open card sort conducted with Optimal Workshop’s OptimalSort software. 10 people in the U.S. completed the study, sorting 28 cards into a median of 5 categories each. [Note: More participants would be ideal. I was working within the constraints of a free Optimal Workshop account at the time.]

The similarity matrix shows how often two cards were paired together and hints at potential groupings. The dendrogram uses the best merge method to show which card groupings have the strongest agreement among participants.

Similarity Matrix
A similarity matrix shows which terms were closely associated by card sorting participants. The highest ranking include "businesses and workplaces" and "schools" as well as "How Covid spreads", "symptoms", "get tested" and "if you're sick"
A dendrogram diagram shows which card sorting terms participants found most agreement with grouping together

Alaska Resident Interview

I conducted a remote interview with a 67-year-old woman who has lived in Juneau, Alaska for four decades to get a better understanding of the COVID-19 information she values and the challenges that may be unique to Alaska.

  • Travel: She explained how isolation can make travel in Alaska a challenge. Juneau and other parts of the state require ferries or small planes to access.
  • Healthcare: The capital city also serves as a regional hub for the islands and small Native villages in the area, who must take a boat or plane to reach the small hospital, which has only 9 critical care unit beds. A COVID-19 outbreak could be disastrous for these communities.
  • Localization: She prefers Juneau’s COVID-19 site over the state’s resources because it is easy to navigate and shares localized data with context that makes it easy to understand.

Competitive Analysis

While COVID-19 resource sites are not competing against one another, they do have the same goal of allowing a state government to share information with their constituents. I reviewed the state-run coronavirus websites from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. I noticed patterns among the sites that communicated most effectively. They featured:

  • Latest case numbers emphasized with links to data dashboards 
  • Prevention: safety guidelines includes masks and social distancing
  • Testing: when to get tested, how to find a testing site or provider
  • Symptoms: what to do if you’re sick
  • Government orders: what’s open and closed 
  • Prominent vaccine information
  • Easy-to-find search box
  • Organized by audience: info for… the public, businesses, health care professionals, travelers, news media, first responders, schools

Analysis & Synthesis

Based on the insights from the open card sort, user interview, and competitive analysis, I used affinity mapping to cluster information and form categories. I color-coded based on the original categories from both websites to see any shifts in how the information is categorized. Sorting also helped to reveal redundancies and inconsistency terminology.

The resulting categories were: prevention, testing, exposure, vaccine, data, updates, guidance for various people, contact info, and more resources.

Color-coded sticky notes are grouped by theme


Based on my assessment, the State of Alaska Governor’s Office COVID-19 website and the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services COVID-19 website should be combined into one resource hub that makes coronavirus information easy to navigate and understand.

The existing sites attempt to offer all resources to all groups of people at once, with varying levels of organization ranging from ambiguous to audience-specific. By presenting links to over 100 pages on each of their sites, including linking to one another, the State of Alaska is sowing confusion during a time when access to trusted information is a matter of public health.

The following recommendations can help better organize the information on the two sites into one united system that presents the most pertinent information first and structures the rest in a way that is easy to find by the appropriate people.

Navigation System

Design a top level-navigation system that helps users quickly access the most sought-after information.

Organization & Labeling System

Design an organization system with intuitive labels that groups relevant information. Create an area for audience-specific information. Be cautious of overusing the terms “COVID-19”, “resources”, “information”, and “guidance” in labeling.

Search System

Utilize a working search function that is placed in an easy-to-find spot and is accessible on every page.

Design Approach

My redesign of the information architecture of Alaska’s two COVID-19 resource websites combines them into one resource that makes it easy for users to find the latest updates, recognize the symptoms of COVID-19, find a testing site, tips for prevention, and guidance for specific groups of people. Each page would feature a search bar, a navigation with access to core categories and a footer with more information should they still have questions.

A pietree diagram shows that tree testing participants searching for at-risk groups went down an incorrect path before finding success

Creating a sitemap and then tree testing it helped me see what was working and what was leading to some confusion. I was able to iterate on my proposed sitemap based on the results. For example, when searching for information for high-risk groups, several tree test participants first checked under “Guidance for...” before finding the correct page under “Prevention”. This helped me decide to cross-list the “High-Risk Groups” page under both categories, so that the most vulnerable people are sure to find the information specifically for them.

Competitive analysis helped inform my choices when creating a wireframe. While all of the information is available via the navigation menu, the homepage layout can help emphasize certain categories so that users don't have to look far for the information they seek. I was sure to design with responsiveness in mind, since the current DHSS site is not responsive.

Sitemap Design

Sitemap diagram key explains that the sitemap includes navigation, pages, footer, content, and links
Sitemap diagram for the proposed Alaska Coronavirus Resources Homepage as described below
  • Home
    • Search
    • Alert Level
    • Latest Case Count
    • COVID-19 Symptoms
    • Testing site finder
    • Prevention tips
    • Updates
  • Updates
    • Sign up for updates
    • Gov.'s Orders
    • Health Alerts
    • Holidays
  • Data
    • Alert Level
    • Case counts
    • Hospitalizations
    • Deaths
    • Dashboard
  • Prevention
    • Masks
    • Distancing
    • Stay home
    • Disinfect
    • Hygiene
    • Gatherings
    • High-risk groups
  • Testing
    • When to test
    • Testing Sites
    • Providers
  • Exposure
    • Symptoms
    • Quarantine & Isolation
    • Contact Tracing
    • Hospitals
    • How it spreads
  • Vaccine
    • Status
    • Who?
    • When?
    • Where?
  • Guidance for....
    • High-risk groups
      • Precautions
      • Seniors
      • Nursing Homes
      • Caregivers
      • Disabilities
      • Risk Factors
    • Individuals
      • Coping with stress
      • Staying active
      • Volunteer
      • Unemployment
      • Food Assistance
      • Housing
      • Court System
    • Families
      • Family plans
      • Child wellbeing
      • Youth advocacy
    • Schools
      • School guidance
      • Education resources
    • Travelers
      • Tourist info
      • Travel to Alaska
      • Travel within Alaska
    • Businesses
      • Small businesses
      • Workforce protection
      • AIDEA loans
      • AKCares Grants
      • By Sector
    • Health Care Pros
      • DHSS info for providers
      • Health alerts for clinicians
      • Health care volunteers
    • The Press
      • Press briefings
      • Press releases
      • Contacts
  • More Resources
    • FAQs
    • Terms Glossary
    • DHSS Insights Blog
    • CDC
    • Alaska by Department
  • Contact
    • Sitemap
    • Call 211
    • Contact email
    • Social media

Wireframe Design