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User Research and IA Testing for Washington's Largest Bicycle Club

Understanding needs and pain points to inform website redesign


January 2022 - June 2022

with major research efforts delivered in 4 weeks


Generative Research, Persona, Journey Map, Card Sorting, Tree Testing


Google Form, Dovetail, Zoom, Miro, Calendly, UXtweak

As the only researcher on the team, I conducted the user research for Cascade Bicycle Club's website redesign project, collaborating with Zoie Huang (UX designer), Leah Breen (content designer), and Misty Weaver (consultant). Together, we communicated directly with the client's marketing and engineering teams. The work of this project was featured on the UW website.

The Challenges

Cascade Bicycle Club is the largest statewide Bicycle Club in the United States. Their website is usually the first point of contact audiences have with Cascade Bicycle Club. It is where people join the membership, sign up for rides & events, apply to become a volunteer, donate, and shop for swag.  For years, the Cascade Bicycle Club knew that their members were experiencing problems with the website. While they hoped to serve everyone at all bicycling levels, the site had developed into a 50,000-page giant monster that no one could find what they needed or complete what they wanted to do easily.

I didn't choose to just test to find usability problems, because...

  • Cascade Bicycle Club had a giant website that hosted over 50,000 pages. Running analysis on all the pages was not the best way to use the limited time and resources. So I needed to prioritize. Insights about the audiences were the best to tell us which use cases, which content, and which features to prioritize.

  • Moreover, with almost zero previous research on audience segmentation, I didn't have enough information about users' tasks on the website to develop meaningful test tasks. That called for some investment in the exploratory study so that to see a full picture of the project through the lens of key audiences and distill insights into problems that really mattered.

The Process

The initial research aimed to:

  • identify, segment, and prioritize audiences 

  • identify the top website use cases of each audience group

  • understand the current experience audiences have when interacting with Cascade Bicycle Club

  • understand what information and brand storytelling approach can best engage the audiences and why

Satisfied with the deliverables in the first stage, the client extended the contract with our team which gave us the opportunity to develop and test ideas for the new website. The research in the second phase focused on:

  • understand how the audiences would organize the website content

  • understand what groups and labels the audiences see for information 

  • identify terms that the audiences are familiar/unfamiliar with

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Phase One - Discovery

I started the project by defining research questions based on the redesigned question raised by the Cascade team. Each research question was tied to a redesign question so that research findings, even with the exploratory nature of the research, were able to provide actionable insight for the website redesign work.

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Based on the stakeholder questionnaire results, 4 audience groups were defined to recruit participants for interviews accordingly. The hypothesis was that there would be a difference in needs and wants between people who were new to bicycling, people who sometimes joined Cascade rides (guests), people who rode frequently (power riders), and people who were very active at Cascade (superfans). 

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Hypothetical audience groups

In-depth Interviews

I carried out remote, semi-structured interviews with six participants, each 30-45 minutes. The participants were a mix of ages, genders, and race/ethnic groups. All participants are based in the state of Washington. I also screened for bicycling experience and knowledge of Cascade Bicycle Club to recruit both novices and experts.

The interview questions covered people's motivations and needs to join/volunteer/donate to a bicycle club, their feelings about experiences at Cascade, and their comments on the website.

After interviews, I redefined the user segments based on the insights

As research progressed, I redefined the audience groups based on interview results, focusing on the needs and behaviors as major segmentation dimensions. I concluded other than the four, there are more realistically three distinct and high-impact audience groups to prioritize when redesigning the website.

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New user segments


The survey was then created to understand the website users' needs, use cases, and preferences with the potential to compare across different audience groups.

During the 7-day time window, we received 160 survey responses from 160 unique respondents. 159 were valid and processed for analysis.

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I created graphs to visualize quantitative data

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I used affinity maps for thematic analysis

To help stakeholders understand users, I created personas and hosted two journey mapping workshops, followed by a thorough readout with the client.


Based on research findings in the interviews and survey, I crafted the personas for the three redefined audience groups. Anti-racism and inclusion are among the core values of Cascade Bicycle Club. Therefore, I and the team intentionally eliminated data points such as image, age, and gender which were common in personas, to avoid bias and focus on the target audiences' psychographics which mattered more to the design.

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Archetype-style personas

Journey Mapping Workshop

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To effectively socialize the research findings with the cross-functional team, I initiated and moderated two journey mapping workshop sessions where the team quickly internalized the research findings, took a user-centered approach, and understood their needs and pain points. To prioritize, I picked each persona's unique or most common use case for the journey mapping activity. As a result, the team was able to receive the research findings well and brainstorm ideas for redesign opportunities.

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I created a deck to present the findings and artifacts to the broader team which included Cascade's communications and marketing director, tech lead, engineers, project manager, UX designer, content designer, and UX consultant.

In the report, I also raised design questions and provided recommendations to guide the team in implementing the research findings. Below are sample slides from the deck.

Phase Two - Testing

The research during stage 1 provided a clearer picture of the audiences and their needs at Cascade. Then, the team had several brainstorming sessions to develop a new information architecture that supported the user needs.

Due to timeline restrictions, I conducted card sorting and tree testing simultaneously to understand the user mental model and test the new IA to gather both qualitative insight and quantitative data for the IA iteration later.

Card Sorting

I invited 4 bicycling experts to participate in the card sorting activity. All respondents either had been riding for years with Cascade or had professional experience with bicycling so we could refer to how content was organized and sorted from the professionals' perspective.

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Tree Testing

57 people who were a mix of new riders, occasional guests, and superfans participated in the tree test study. The results showed if and how well the terms on labels, the arrangement of sections, and the relationship of topics to each other worked.

Key findings in stage 2...

Synthesizing the results of the card sorting and the tree testing, I was able to uncover:

  1. The newly suggested title "Get Involved" was well received by the audiences, as they expected to see ways to support Cascade under "Get Involved".

  2. Seeing the term Advocacy alone, audiences think it can mean two things: (1) the values Cascade supports and advocates for, and (2) Cascade's activities or programs they can participate in to raise awareness for biking and introduce more people to bikes. Neither of these two matches what Cascade has under the Advocacy section.

  3. The overlaps among titles such as Education, Learning, and Resources created confusion when navigating the website.

I created graphs to visualize the findings and reported them in non-technical language to the client's team, which helped them understand the findings and gave them strong confidence in my recommendations for the new IA.

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Visualization of user mental models

The Impact

Before the research, although Cascade Bicycle Club had rich demographic data of their members, for a very long time they had insufficient knowledge about the website audience groups and their needs, which brought a lot of ambiguities when they tried to redesign the website to meet those needs.

So because of the research, for the first time, the team gained a research-based understanding of the motivations behind the users' interactions with Cascade and identified areas that met and failed their expectations.

The findings informed the website content strategy and design strategy for the club's 2022-24 redesign plan. The personas were shared across the whole organization as a helpful reference for not only the website redesign but also all member-related activities like event planning. 

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Moreover, based on the testing results, we were able to optimize the information architecture, remove confusing terms and make the information hierarchy and wording aligned with user mental models, providing an easier and more intuitive navigation experience for the users.

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New IA.png
New IA.png

“To start with who is visiting our site and what they want to accomplish is a fantastic approach to thinking through how to design a fresh site. I'm finding all these details thoroughly helpful in terms of conceptualizing how to present all of our offerings.”

Joseph, Tech Lead at Cascade Bicycle Club

“It's already changed how often we are sharing "resources for new riders" on social.”

Sara, Communications and Marketing Director at Cascade Bicycle Club

My Takeaway

1. Be flexible and creative to make what's the best and the most appropriate

There are certain ways in which research is usually done but that should be a good reference instead of a limitation. When the most common used persona template did not fit the needs and values of Cascade Bicycle Club, I was glad to have a meaningful discussion with the team and decided it was more appropriate for our project to get rid of demographics and photos so we not only followed the inclusion practice of Cascade but avoid unintentional implications and bias in traditional personas as well.


2. Provide enough context to the non-UX audiences in the research readout


I was working with diverse stakeholders and some were unfamiliar with the UX research methods and how to interpret the results. It was important for me as a researcher to give a good amount of information about the methodology and explain the research results using storytelling to help them understand the findings through a good story I told around the data and gain their trust in the insights to make informed decisions.

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