My research informed the information architecture of the new contextual home page


Both log data and qualitative research showed that Microsoft StaffHub, a scheduling and collaboration tool for frontline workers, has low usage on features other than shift schedule. I frequently heard comments like below from time to time during research sessions:

To make StaffHub a real “hub”, I led the research effort to understand frontline workers and managers’ daily information needs, with the goal of increasing user engagement by providing more valuable information at the right time.

In addition, the research was also designed to verify the design team’s hypotheses – what if the StaffHub Homepage is more than just schedule? What if we bring relevant content/features upfront and make them accessible for users when needed?


This research was initially inspired by Google’s “Daily Information Needs” study where 8 times a day, at completely random times, Google pings participants with the question, “What did you want to know recently?”.

I adjusted the research method to better fit my team’s needs. 3 research methods were used in this study.


1. Diary Study

12 frontline managers and 12 frontline workers across the United States were prompted before, during, and right after their shifts. They documented their daily activities and information needs for 5 days.



2. In-depth interview

Diary Study participants were brought in to the lab for a 1.5 hours’ in-person interview, where I dug deeper into their diaries and identified pain points and opportunities.


3. Concept testing and card sorting

During the interviews, I conducted open card sorting with existing features from the design team, as well as features participants came up with.

(Fun fact: We did not have enough time and budget to onboard a card sorting took for remote participants. I came up with the idea of using Trello for card sorting exercise.)




Key learnings

By triangulating the data from the diaries (world cloud and world three analysis), card sorting, and interview, I was able to identify participants’ information needs and pain points throughout a shift. I learned that information needs are predictably contextual by roles, time of the shifts and on/off shift.


I also learned that We have a real opportunity to improve the morale of the frontline workers when at work. Illustrated by the emotion graph below:


As part of the report, I created an interactive chart based on the research data, for designers, PMs, and engineers to easily find out what people in different roles need to know at different time.



I proposed actions we can take in the short, mid, and long terms. One immediate action the product team took was to redesign the homepage of StaffHub, making it a contextual experience that serves users’ needs throughout a shift.


Fun fact: The initial name of the new homepage was StaffHub “Today”. However, as we learned in the research that people not only want to know what’s going on today, they also want to know what to expect for “tomorrow”, the team changed it to StaffHub “Now”.

This research also impacted other features such as task and communication.


Project timeline and resources

I had a few days for initial planning, one week for diary study (preparing for the in-person interview during this time), one week for reporting. I planned the study and composed the report alone. A contract researcher helped me with 5 in-person interview sessions so that we could speak with 24 participants in a week.



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