Envisioning Engagement with Discovery Communications to Optimize Corporate Portals

Discovery Envisioning Engagement

In 2014, Discovery Communications approached AIS to develop new HR and Corporate Communications portals leveraging the Office 365 (SharePoint Online) platform. Before implementation could occur, the sites needed to be completely redesigned from a User Interface (UI) and Information Architecture (IA) perspective. To come up with a plan that met the needs of Discovery and take advantage of the capabilities of SharePoint, AIS put together a team consisting of a SharePoint Architect, an Infrastructure Architect and a UX Designer to gather requirements and perform the analysis and design of the SharePoint Online–based portals.

Over the course of several weeks, this team worked with key stakeholders and team members at Discovery, envisioning an engagement that involved short cycles of requirements collection, design and development. These cycles would then be followed by customer review and feedback specific to defining wireframes, building out the layout and making sure the IA was optimal before finally moving on to the visual design.


Our first step was to identify the basic types of content that would be stored, how users expect to find that content, how the content is created and processed and what kind of security constraints existed. Starting from a basic pattern found in many portal implementations, the Information Architecture needed to include specific functionality, such as focused and targeted information based on certain employee criteria. To gather this information, the AIS SharePoint Architect worked onsite with the client over a period of one week and led a series of meetings with appropriate HR/Corporate Communications stakeholders and IT personnel.

From the information gathered, we developed a concrete SharePoint–based intranet design that included IA as well as governance elements. Using this technical design, the AIS SharePoint UX Designer created interface designs for the portals. These designs involved SharePoint out-of-the-box functionality while also leveraging custom controls throughout the portals. We created the main portal page for the entire intranet, with landing pages for each section of the portal and page layouts to support each section.

The final set of designs included mobile-friendly versions to detail how each responsive design would look on a variety of screen sizes and devices.

While AIS worked on the UX design, the AIS SharePoint Architect completed a plan to implement the customer’s new Corporate Communications and HR Portals on Office 365. This included a detailed migration and implementation plan with a number of development iterations, tasks per iteration and roles per task. The plan also called out dependencies, if needed, on the customer’s internal IT or business staff.

What We Delivered:

  • Information Architecture and Governance Plan Document
  • Four total draft UX designs for the portals, and one final design for each portal
  • Responsive designs that outline the user experience
  • “Best Practices” document addressing questions and requested recommendations
  • Project plan for implementation and migration of new HR and Corporate Communications portal
  • Estimate for completion of implementation and migration of new HR and Corporate Communications portal
  • Pattern library and content-creation reference

Discovery Wireframe (image below)                                                                 


Discovery Design (image below)

Resources: Our work on this project was featured in a recent Microsoft blog post on blog.office.com by Dave Duvall, a senior Vice President of Infrastructure and Support services at Discovery Communications. You can read more here