Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM)

After hearing “I can’t find anything on your website” from many members, SHM set a goal to improve its website user experience.

Working with the Four Kitchens team, SHM has shifted their perspective from “inside out” to a more user-centric “outside in.” The results include improved information architecture and a content strategy that can be applied in their next redesign.

The Client

Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) is the professional association for the medical and operational staff that work in hospitals. This includes physicians, nurse practitioners, medical students and residents, as well as hospital chiefs and directors. Providing the best medical care to patients in the hospital setting requires unique skills and experience, and this association aims to bring together these professionals to learn and share their expertise to help raise the quality of care provided.

The Problem

SHM knew their website was not serving their members as well as it should. The navigation is confusing to members–it reflects the way employees organized and manage content, not how members expect to find it.This causes endless complaints from members at their annual conferences and monthly meeting saying, “I can’t find anything on their website.”

Prior to working with Four Kitchens, the association also lacked a formal content strategy. A majority of the content is created by committees outside of the staff with no context for how or where the content fits on the website. It is up to the staff to guess where it should be placed on the website. Without a clear content strategy, the website feels more like multiple conversations simultaneously shouting to be heard than pointed advice for their members and their particular situations.

SHM understood that in order to improve the overall experience for its members, they would need to prioritize user research before embarking on a website redesign project.

The Solutions

SHM engaged Four Kitchens in several areas to improve their site’s overall Information Architecture and Content Strategy.


Dan Chung, Senior Manager – IT at SHM and product owner for the project. 

Discovery workshop

We started with a Discovery workshop to draw knowledge from the SHM staff and collate it into tools that could be used to align design decisions with their goals. It was an opportunity for SHM staff to:  

  • Agree on project objectives and how to measure them,
  • Share knowledge they already had about their members,
  • Pinpoint website pains and frustrations,
  • Review content strategy and workflow process,
  • Identify content that has high value for the organization and high value for the end user, and
  • Create a comprehensive list of website needs.

User interviews: Understanding the mental models of SHM's members

Before we could start to reorganize the content on the website, we needed to understand how the members thought about and pursued the information they were looking for. Through 12 interviews with physicians, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, and administrative directors, we explored many content-related items including:

  • What information they were seeking,
  • Process for finding content,
  • Information gaps, i.e., what was missing,  
  • How much time they are able to spend on the website, and
  • Where, when and what devices they use to access the website.

We also explored how the different hospital roles had unique information needs. We found that there was some overlap of information needs, though the depth of knowledge needed differed by role. Lastly, we explored future content development, how members would prefer to be notified about new content, as well as how the website could facilitate additional engagement and interactions among members.


The SHM website serves multiple audiences who seek different information on a variety of topics. Even where there are shared interest in topics, the knowledge depth could vary among audiences. By developing personas for the top five audience types, we were better able to understand what topics and knowledge are needed for each group. As we learned the variations of when and where different audience groups pursued the information they needed, we also identified how they would like new content delivered. The personas had different stress factors, and thus reacted differently to situations at the hospital. These influenced how they were feeling about their jobs, just as what they were seeing and hearing within the industry affected their attitudes and behavior.

Information architecture

Armed with the information gathered in Discovery, user interviews and persona development, we set about tackling the central information architecture and navigation issues. In order to better understand how the members grouped the content, UX Strategist Donna Habersaat conducted six moderated open card sorts. Cards were created to represent sample content and a representative from each persona was asked to group the content cards into buckets that made sense to them. By observing each participant while the grouping was taking place, Donna was able to follow up with questions to better understand the participant’s thinking. Many insights were generated during this activity that helped the team understand how users thought about the existing content and what gaps need to be addressed.

From here we developed a new navigation and site map, but we still wanted to test it against a larger population of users. We conducted a tree test, in which users identified the location within the navigation where they thought a piece of information should be located. We had over 120 participants respond to the tree test. Results from the tree test provided us with some tweaks that needed to be made to the site map.

Taxonomy validation

SHM had a taxonomy developed by a consultant prior to this project, but it had never been validated with SHM members. To make the most of the work that was already done and ensure it was aligned with what we had learned from members, we conducted a tree test to ensure that the correct terminology and relationships were being used within the taxonomy. The results showed that the developed taxonomy was too complex and provided too many hierarchical levels for certain topics, instead members were grouping them at the same level. With this new knowledge, we were able to simplify the taxonomy for the website.


This work was the first phase of a major site redesign that SHM is planning to undertake.

In summary, the workshops resulted in improved, validated plans for:

  • Information architecture and navigation
  • Content strategy
  • Site map

The services tools and processes we used to achieve this include:

  • Drew knowledge into usable formats for decision making through a Discovery workshop
  • Developed personas during the discovery workshop then verified and supplemented with data through interviews and moderated card sort
  • Developed prospective navigation and site map and verified through moderated card sort and tree tests
  • Validated and simplified prospective taxonomy terms and structure through tree test

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