The AFPortal at the USAF

Improving the USAF Intranet

AFPortal logoCHALLENGE:  The U.S. Air Force Intranet, when initially launched in 2001, was not well received by users.   Registration was far below targets and the tool was irrelevant to the lives of people who worked for the U.S. Air Force. There were many problems:

  • The technology platform was slow and requirements was not oriented toward user needs
  • The content was poorly organized
  • The strategy on program direction lacked focus and was not documented
  • There was no method of sharing knowledge or best practices in writing for the Web, and every content author was left on his or her own to post content to the site in any way they desired
  • The need for adequate user-help and support was not properly funded or measured
  • There was also no routine program to measure the effectiveness of the site for users or its adherence with best practices in usability
  • There was no communications plan to use offline channels to tell our target population about the benefits and features of the AF Portal and why they should register

SOLUTION:  While serving as a portal strategist with the US Air Force GCSS-AF Portal team from August 2002 to 2007, Emerald Strategies founder Kathy McShea was the primary user experience advocate and authority on the HQ team.

  • She championed a usability focus to the redesign of the Next Generation Portal to give users with fewer clicks to content, decreased time to task and a higher success rate on core tasks as measured by a series of usability studies
  • Authored two editions of Web content guidelines for Content Managers to give a training resource to address content usability and improve user satisfaction
  • Created Key Performance Indicator and user feedback framework to analyze and target improvements
  • Leveraged federal expertise on standards for Web content and call centers to guide a plan to improve the AF Portal help desk to help correct caller access and delay issues
  • Led effective marketing campaigns to create a message – Get on the same page – that reflected the business case of the site to spread the word about AF Portal adoption
  • Provided leadership and support in requirements gathering and program direction

 As part of the roll-out of the Next Generation AF Portal we also produced a short video to explain the improvements to the USAF Intranet and encourage people across the AF Portal to register for accounts. The video clip is available for viewing below.


  • Information architecture was given a needed face-lift using user-centered design principles
  • A testing regime started with regular task analysis usability studies and satisfaction surveys using the system usability score
  • Two editions of a Web publishing guideline were published and distributed to all content managers to provide training in writing for the Web
  • Access and delay issues at the help desk turned around; the new help desk metrics regime provided leadership with an early warning system to continue to watch that channel and make improvements
  • A more streamlined and user-oriented requirements process started to assure that new functionality and engineering support focused on what mattered most to users
  • A top 10 metrics report provided Pentagon leadership the first-ever key performance indicators for the AF Portal program

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