Awarded to Threesixty Reality Ltd

Start date: Monday 25 March 2019
Value: £16,580
Company size: SME
Office for Students

Card-sorting research for the Information Architecture of the OfS website

9 Incomplete applications

8 SME, 1 large

26 Completed applications

25 SME, 1 large

Important dates

Thursday 7 February 2019
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 14 February 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 21 February 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Qualitative card-sorting research with representatives of the Office for Students website user personas. This work will aim to identify an information architecture that works better for all the Office for Students' audiences, including specialists and generalists.
Latest start date
Thursday 28 February 2019
Expected contract length
Between 2 weeks and a month
No specific location, eg they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Office for Students
Budget range
£15k - £20k inclusive of VAT

About the work

Why the work is being done
The work aims to make the OfS website’s information architecture work better for generalist audiences (students, parents, journalists, the public). Previous user research recommended that the OfS carry out an open card-sort. So we expect the supplier to carry out qualitative, face-to-face user research with representatives from the Office for Students’ user personas. As part of any card-sorting exercise, we would also like to informally test a model for an alternative information architecture, which the OfS will supply. Note this work is for face-to-face testing only. The OfS will carry out some online card-sorting with larger numbers of participants separately.
Problem to be solved
At present the OfS website’s information architecture works well for its main audience: universities and colleges. But previous user research shows that it works less well for audiences who are not so familiar with the organisation (students, journalists). The research therefore aims to create an information architecture that will work for all audiences, without compromising what already works well.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a senior manager at a university or college I need to know about the 'big picture' changes in HE regulation so I can take strategic decisions.
As a practitioner at a university or college I need to understand the OfS' guidance so that my provider complies with the regulation.
As a student/parent/member of the public I need to understand the role of the OfS and how they can help me.
As a news seeker I need a transparent record of latest information in terms that I can understand so I can use it for my work.
Early market engagement
In April 2018, the OfS launched its website, after a period of user-centred design. In November the OfS carried out user testing on the website. This found that the site works well for its main audiences (universities and colleges), but that the site structure works less well for generalist audiences. In particular, generalist audiences appear to have a different mental model when they come to the site. Providers are typically carrying out known-item searches, and can get to their goal quickly using the existing functionality. Whereas generalist audiences may not know what they are looking for, so think more in terms of topics. System Usability Scale scores reflect this difference. For universities the site scores 83. But for generalists it drops to 60. We therefore believe that we need to amend the information architecture so that it works better for both mental models. But this means the work should only look to refine, rather than overhaul, the information architecture because we don’t want to compromise something that already works for a critical audience group.
Any work that’s already been done
Existing team
The supplier will work with the Digital Publishing Team at the OfS, mainly the Digital Publishing Manager
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
The Office for Students is based in Bristol (BS34 8SR), but also has an office in London (which could be used for a workshop). However we are happy for any research sessions to take place at agency laboratories in London.
Working arrangements
The user researcher can work independently of the OfS (they don’t need to co-locate). But the Digital Publishing Team would like to observe any workshops or card-sorting exercise, wherever it takes place.
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Have experience of user-centred design for large organisations or digital services, particularly card-sorting research techniques
  • Be able to support recruitment of suitable participants and provide the facilities to carry out the required research
Nice-to-have skills and experience
Experience working with the higher education sector, university and student audiences

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Approach and methodology
  • Understanding of the problem and a clear approach to a solution
  • Estimated timeframes for the work
  • How they've identified risks and dependencies and offered approaches to manage them
  • Value for money
Cultural fit criteria
  • Be transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Provide viewing arrangements so the client can witness all research
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
Written proposal
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. For the requirement around recruitment of suitable participants and providing research facilities, do you prefer a description of the facilities and recruitment capabilities or a case study for when we've recruited research participants in the past?
If it's the latter then by 'suitable' do you mean suitable for the project in the case study or suitable for your current recruitment requirement around students, universities, parents etc.? Would a case study that shows how we recruited a difficult audience qualify, or does it have to be the same audience as for this project to meet the requirement?
We would prefer just a general description of the facilities and recruitment capabilities. But there is no harm in providing a case study to show how these facilities and capabilities were used in practice. Any case study needn't align exactly with the requirements of this project.
2. Please can you provide details of what the next steps are following this initial application i.e. deadlines for the written proposal/if there will be an interview and when?
We’d expect to receive the written proposal within a week after the deadline (by 28 Feb). We are planning to appoint a supplier based on the proposals alone, but may call suppliers to interview if we feel it is necessary. Interviews would be held on 7 March.
3. Can you host a call with suppliers about this opportunity where we can have a live Q&A and the discussion notes are shared on this tender ad? This has proven helpful on other DM opportunities.
We won’t be hosting a live Q&A. The project is relatively small-scale and the work relatively straight-forward.
4. Who from your team will be scoring applications for this opportunity and what positions do they hold?
Robert Stewart, Digital Publishing Manager; and Sara Carroll, Digital Publications Editor
5. Are you working with any existing suppliers in relation to this tender opportunity? If you are, who are they?
We are not currently working with any other agencies as part of this work. Bunnyfoot carried out the previous research in the autumn of 2018.
6. You state that you "are happy for any research sessions to take place at agency laboratories in London."; does this extend to labs across the UK or is your preference to appoint a London based agency?
There’s no preference for London. Research can take place anywhere across the UK.
7. Is the primary purpose of the research to evaluative if the alternate IA represents an improvement to the existing IA, or inform a further iteration of the alternate IA?
The main purpose is to explore what an alternative IA might look like, and, in a lean fashion, to test some ideas for it. Bearing in mind that the existing IA works well for a key segment of our audience.
8. Will online card-sorting be conducted before or after the face-to-face sessions delivered by the chosen supplier?
We're aiming to conduct it before the sessions, depending on other constraints and pressures.
9. How many distinct user personas are relevant to this research?
There are six relevant personas
10. Who will be responsible for recruiting research participants for this engagement, including any associated costs such as incentives?
The supplier will be responsible for this.
11. What research have you conducted into your users so far, and will this be provided to the chosen supplier?
We have identified user personas and reviewed this analysis periodically. We have also carried out several workshops with universities and colleges and telephone research with students. We have now also been through many rounds of user testing. All of this research can be made available to the supplier.
12. Have you conducted any tree testing on your existing information architecture to identify more specific issues?
13. How do you envisage our findings being communicated and incorporated into other related research activity (such as the online card-sort mentioned)?
In a lean/practical fashion. We don't require a formal report, just practical findings and recommendations.
14. Can you confirm whether there is a requirement to deliver information architecture recommendations based on our research (for example in the form of a sitemap or taxonomy definition)?
Yes, this is what we want to achieve through the research.