Finding the right article within a sea of documentation is one of the most common challenges encountered by users of enterprise software today. I’m a technical writer for Workspace ONE UEM, and I spend hundreds of hours developing clear, accurate information for every release. But if you are not able to find it, then my efforts are futile.
To solve the problem of discoverability for Workspace ONE UEM documentation, I need to understand how you search for content. Let’s start by taking a second to imagine the route you follow when you’re trying to find an answer online.
If you’re like me, you probably do something like this:
- Google your search keywords and scan the results.
- Click a link that looks promising.
- Feel disappointed if it is not helpful.
- Go back to the search results, click another link.
- And on and on.
Until either you locate the information you’re looking for, or you give up, feeling like you’ve left an annoying itch unscratched.
Is this your experience with Workspace ONE UEM documentation?
Analytics data indicates that over 50% of you follow the hit-or-miss method of discovery when searching VMware Workspace ONE® Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) documentation, while less than 20% use the navigation sidebar with the documentation portal. That is a striking difference! It tells me that you have a clear preference for external search engines over the internal navigation system.
Armed with this knowledge, our goal becomes simple
So, my team and I want to increase the efficiency of content discoverability once you land on the Workspace ONE UEM documentation site from search results.
And we believe simplicity is the key.
To experiment, we started looking for ways to simplify the documentation site’s information architecture.
What is the root cause?
A hierarchical table of contents (TOC) sidebar is a common convention in product documentation interfaces. It is provided to help you understand and visualize an entire body of information. In theory, the series of parent-child relationships in the menu provides a map that orients you as you seek a piece of content.
In practice, when you encounter a deep hierarchical menu–one with folders nested inside folders–you often experience cognitive overload. Instead of helping you understand how the site is organized, the menu becomes a piece of furniture that you instantaneously dismiss when on a mission to scan and click.
Should a documentation site’s TOC be flat or deep?
Another solution is a flat model. Like most design problems, both deep and flat solutions have pros and cons. Choices about how documentation is grouped absolutely impact user behavior, although the nuances are not always obvious at first glance.
The two models above represent the same quantity of information, and each shows a perfectly rational way of organizing it. Yet the experience of browsing these two hierarchies is significantly different.
We tested our hypothesis with the following steps.
Step 1: Trim the left navigation bar by removing release-based versioning
Earlier, in our left navigation menu, we grouped the content based on releases. Cloud content was grouped at the top because it changes all the time with every new release. And then below that, we organized everything by release. For example, all the 2005 version content was grouped together and then below that all the 2003 content was grouped and so on.
As we started to solve our problem, we figured that versioning the content based on the releases is not an essential requirement, because we already have a version selector that allows you to switch between releases. Which means there’s no need for versions in the left navigation menu. For example, if you are looking for Cloud content, you can select services from the version selector drop-down menu, or else pick whichever version of Workspace ONE UEM you want to learn about when you land on our content on the VMware Docs site.
Step 2: Solve the discoverability problem by flattening the hierarchy
We predicted that if we remove the parent-child hierarchy on the left navigation grid and display all the document categories on one single webpage, it would be easier for you to discover our content.
We also believed that a single webpage user interface would enable you to use in-page search using CTRL+F, even if you are not familiar with our taxonomy.
Step 3: Unwrap Mental Models for Better Information Architecture
One of our primary goals was to figure out the categorization headings that best match the mental model so that you find what you’re looking for. We spent hours exploring how you think about our products. We re-strategized our category headings to use concrete, descriptive language to tell you what to expect from the content of each section.
An example of a problematic categorization with UEM documentation was the usage of generic category titles such as “App Management”, “Device Management”. The headings mostly made sense to the product console and for those of you who are familiar with UEM console. The category titles seemed too generic for first-time users. We invested time in the decision-making process from your point of view. We reshuffled our guides under the right categories, and added relatable category names such as “Getting Started”, “Install and Upgrade”, “Manage Apple Devices” and so on, so that your time is best spent by selecting the sections that have the highest probability of providing value. We focused on enhancing user engagement with our new logical grouping. Our goal is simple: Increase findability and relevance.
Testing the theory
To test our hypotheses, we created a high-fidelity prototype to visualize the new flat TOC structure and conducted a usability test with internal VMware employees to evaluate the variations.
The new prototype changes the TOC sidebar from a deeply nested structure into a flat, card-based navigation menu within the body of a full-page layout. We asked participants to walk through test scenarios using both the existing deep hierarchical TOC, and then the prototype.
In one of our scenarios, we asked participants to discover upgrade documentation. Using the old TOC model, 50% of the participants failed to locate it, 25% succeeded, and the remaining 25% did not like exploring our TOC due to its complexity and need to scroll. They preferred going back to the search engine or doing an internal search for faster and better results.
With our new navigation design, by contrast, 90% of our participants easily discovered the upgrade documentation soon after they landed on the new navigation page. Participants who used CTRL+F as a default behavior were able to complete all the test scenarios with ease.
14 out of 15 internal test participants felt that the deep hierarchical model is a very complicated user experience due to multiple nesting folders. However, we understand that internal usability testing isn’t sufficient. That’s where you come in. We are actively looking for real, live participants who want to get involved. We want to know what you think about the new model!
Out with the Deep, in with the Flat
With the 2008 release of Workspace ONE UEM, we did a lift and shift of our ever-scrolling TOC sidebar and replaced it with a new in-page navigation interface. The new navigation page is like a train station – it directs you to the correct destination of your documentation routes.
Does it work?
We’ve heard you say that finding the right documentation is a challenge, and we’ve seen you rely on Google’s hit-or-miss search method. You challenged us to engage, interpret data findings, and reflect those findings in our actions. We are working towards improving the documentation experience to make Workspace ONE UEM easier for you!
Call to Action
Take a look at our new navigation page and tell us what you think! Does our new navigation design work for you?
To leave feedback, go to Workspace ONE UEM Console Documentation page, jump to the bottom of our feedback section, and tell us what you like about the new model.