Embracing the digital ecosystem by redefining the information architecture

Product Design & Validation

With Cascais City Hall


In recent years, digital services and platforms have taken on increasing importance, a fact on which the pandemic has had an additional impact.

Cascais, aware of this, invested in digital platforms, focusing on the cascais.pt portal and its respective channels. This digital ecosystem, known as Cascais Digital, experienced rapid growth in the number of users and the range of services and content offered. This growth has increased the complexity of Cascais Digital, and for it to continue to respond to citizens’ needs, it was necessary to carry out an assessment and reorganization of usability and information architecture.


New information architecture with a strong focus on functionality and future recommendations for the website regarding design, content, functionality, and user experience.

Cascais City Hall
Product Design & Validation
6 weeks (October — December 2022)
Research, Validation, Testing, UX Strategy, Information Architecture
Tiago Nunes, Sofia Carvalho,

Camilla Mortean


Marisa Fontinha


Cascais is a town that welcomes a wide range of people and, therefore, necessities — but with almost 659 years of history, they also have the information to match it.

With more than 300 pages, their website could be challenging to navigate. Cascais also held complementary microsites and applications that, although they brought new knowledge, only helped the user navigate part of the ecosystem. In an attempt to address this, the website offered two different menus, but the users still struggled with navigation.

In just one month, Cascais City Hall had 35000 support requests (phone calls and visits). How could we help Cascais’ users find the support they needed in the digital ecosystem?

our role


Deep dive into Cascais’ information architecture
and understand their goals and requirements


Deeply understand Cascais’ users’ struggles and needs through testing


Create an information architecture aligned and validated with its users


Support Cascais’ users by transforming the city hall website into the centerpiece of Cascais’ digital ecosystem. This perspective shift will also transform Cascais’ current website into a tool where users can manage (or create) their relationship with the city.

RESEARCH and findings

We knew we needed two different research/testing stages from the very beginning. First, we had to understand the everyday experience: what was working and what could be improved. Then, we wanted to test our proposal:
to ensure our assumptions and applications actually served our users.

Assessment Stage

We started by understanding the City Hall and the end-users, their requirements, restraints, and wishes. Our goal in this stage was to ensure we had all the information we needed to make informed and sustained decisions.

We started this project by working closely with Cascais City Hall. Together
we identified the needs and struggles of the team and end-users. We also immersed ourselves in data: analytics from the website, phone requests, and store visits.

We identified, together with the City Hall, the user personas they serve. Our goal was to better understand their diverse users’ needs and motivations. Since the City Hall serves a wide range of people, we started by identifying the impact on several layers, such as the influence in the community, frequency and scope of use, etc. With this information, we prioritized them, ensuring our proposal could answer the most impactful set of needs.

Conversations with potential users and the team helped us to understand the relationship between the citizen and the website. They provide us, in a short period, a considerable amount of data and a macro view of the site’s current use, difficulties, and potential improvements. 

We also held more profound conversations with team members in strategic positions for the project, thus gathering other significant insights and data.

Usability tests offer a more detailed view of user behavior on Cascais’ website. We stipulated tasks for residents, workers, and students of Cascais to fulfill on the website. Then, in real-time, we observed the user’s actions and the feelings the whole process provoked.

For greater representation, the tests were done online and in person, on desktop and mobile. To define the flows, we linked the data from analytics, the information collected from the interviews, and the client support system data.

We selected around 50 pages from the website, which we considered representative of the users’ needs and difficulties, and asked users to group them into categories. The test was open, meaning users could create their own categories and choose which pages to aggregate.

With this test, we could understand how users expect to see the information and thus have a glimpse of the citizens’ mental map of the Cascais website’s content.

Validation Stage

After the assessment stage, we had all the information we needed to build a new information architecture that would help to create a more cohesive and straightforward experience for our users. But just designing it was not enough: we needed to test it until we got it right.

  • We tested our information architecture proposal;
  • We made the adjustments using the information we learned from testing;
  • We re-tested and fine-tuned our proposal.

Our goal was to understand the best title for the categories. For this, we showed a screen with five words/expressions related to a category in five seconds. With this test, we could measure the strongest/most meaningful terms, capable of quickly leading the citizen to the related content.

Once again, we challenged our users to organize the site pages. This time the test was closed, which means that the categories were pre-defined based on the strategy we created from the user’s needs, municipality, and site characteristics. 

We shared the menu titles, and only through the words, without the design, we asked the citizens to find different information and services. Our goal was to verify that the new information architecture led the user to the needed information.


We also took the opportunity to validate some categories’ existence and evaluate the main category, “Citizen,” the most diverse and complex gateway
to the site.




references studied


team workshops


citizen interviews


hours for interviewing and testing (plus analysis)

Testing with real users allowed us to learn about their struggles and needs and to keep fine-tuning our proposal until we got it right.


Although the new information architecture is not yet implemented, we can already observe some vital changes.

User ability to find the information/service that he is looking for:


Number of entries on the second level menu

Although design and content revisions were not part of the project scope, we created draft mockups to help Cascais visualize the major impact that these changes would have. Although simple, the mockups could be a starting point
for future developments.

A new menu with a cleaner and easy-to-read look:


A content page that supports the user by using clear titles, navigation aids, and highlights available services:

  • One menu instead of two — without the loss of information;
  • Icons and revealing text — to support the navigation;
  • Multiple target approach — including tourism front and center without adding barriers to the citizen experience;
  • Architecture created with the user in mind — versus responding primarily to the City Hall's terminology and needs;
  • Obvious connection to available services — reinforcing the functional aspect of the website;
  • A transparent view of Cascais' digital ecosystem — helping sediment the website as the centerpiece while showcasing all the extra information and functionalities.

Cascais City Hall will now be able to support and nourish their users, using all the information they already have but showcasing it in an improved format.   

Besides designing a new information architecture ready to be implemented, we also wanted to support Cascais in future developments. With the knowledge we had gathered from our users’ exploration, we shared future revisions that could be made in critical areas like content, design, user support, and functionality. These improvements will help Cascais get even closer to its goal of creating a truly useful digital ecosystem that empowers its citizens.

We continue working with government facilities to help them create ecosystems where citizens have the tools they need to manage and improve their lives.


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