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Information Architecture for the Website Redesign for an Animal Association

Client: American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)


To create a new information architecture and website design to promote AAHA's accreditation service and clear confusion between accreditation and membership.

About The Client

AAHA improves the human-animal bond by helping veterinary practitioners provide optimal care. 

My Role

Experience designer on a team that included a project lead, a project manager, a visual designer, and a business analyst.

UX Methods
  • Survey

  • Cross-Divisional Workshop

  • Card Sort & Sitemap

  • Wireframes


How might we show that AAHA is a supportive partner as opposed to cold, calculating accreditors and showcase the value of being AAHA-accredited so animal hospitals will begin the accreditation process and pet owners will learn the significance of accreditation.

88% of vet clinics not accredited so there is a real opportunity here!

Though animal hospitals are not required to be AAHA-accredited, an AAHA accreditation showcases the standard of excellence.
Pet owners are often not aware if an animal hospital is accredited.


The primary audiences for the website are companion animal hospitals and practitioners who strive to create a warm work environment and support their patients (pet owners + pet).

Animal Hospitals
(as a team)
at Animal Hospitals
Pet Owners
(secondary audience)
  • Veterinarians   
  • Hospital Office Managers 
  • Technicians  
  • Other Vet Professionals

Meet with Stakeholders

Align project objectives to AAHA’s 3 Strategic Goals, which focused more on animal practitioners vs pet owners in first iteration of the website redesign.

Facilitate a Cross-Divisional Staff Workshop

Include participants from AAHA leadership staff and departments, ranging from CEO, marketers, fundraiser, education planning, and meeting planning.

Conduct a Member Survey

The AAHA Guidelines and educational resources are highly valued content.

I conducted these research activities to learn how to best streamline the information architecture and content to meet expectations of website visitors

Run a Card Sort Activity with Members

"Resources" content was broken into smaller categories based on tasks such as running your practice, marketing your practice, and career tools.

Build Information Architecture

Improve navigational structure to clearly distinguish accreditation and membership.


Plan the content hierarchy for the homepage to promote AAHA's key services and products.

The Process


The new website must focus on animal hospital practitioners and clearly communicate the difference between accreditation and membership.

According to stakeholder interviews with 18 AAHA staff members:

  • Promoting accreditation, especially to animal hospitals, will have a positive impact on AAHA’s financial bottom line

  • AAHA wants to be seen as an advocate for animal hospitals, especially since mental health is a risk in their field

  • The primary audiences for the new are animal hospital practitioners, while secondary audiences are pet owners

  • AAHA's 3 strategic goals ​must be addressed throughout the project


Promote the Value of Accreditation

and increase public awareness of accredited hospitals


Healthy Workplace Culture Initiative

helps veterinary teams create work environments that foster overall well-being

Re-image the Accreditation Process


to provide a seamless, virtual evaluation protocol as part of the process.


This frees up time for hospital practitioners to focus on practicing medicine.

AAHA’s 3 Strategic Goals drove my design decisions through the project lifecycle

The Process



Participants/teams included a mix of leadership roles

  • design

  • editing

  • fundraising

  • meetings

  • publishing

  • technology

We facilitated a cross-divisional workshop with the AAHA staff, which consist of 3 team exercises that unveil potential polarizing opinions among team members and help bridge the gaps between departments about the website strategy.

During this workshop, staff members from various departments were separated into 3 teams and led through 3 different exercises. 


Exercise 1:

Content organization
(card sort)


Exercise 2:

Content priority


Exercise 3:

Content by audience segment

  • Only 1 of the 3 teams placed Accreditation as a primary navigation item during the content organization (card sort) exercise. However, promoting the value of accreditation is a strategic goal of the organization so we needed to address that with the staff

  • All 3 teams agreed that Accreditation Awareness, AAHA Advantage, and Hospital Locator are high priority content. This aligns with their strategic goals of promoting accreditation, which is a revenue generator for the organization.

  • The most relevant content items for Practice Managers are believed to be AAHA Advantage, AAHA Market Connect, Chart of Accounts, and Evaluation Tool.

Now that we heard from the AAHA organization, it was time to talk to their customers.

The Process


AAHA Guidelines and Continuing Education opportunities are highly-valued content and must be prioritized in the new website.


Survey respondents completed the survey


Survey respondents

work in an animal hospital

When asked:

What are the 3 most common reasons you visit

  • 66% are looking for AAHA Guidelines

  • 56% are finding an education/training 

  • 46% are finding a resource or work tool

Bolstering placement of AAHA Guidelines and Education is imperative in the new website. Now let's see where they expect to find these content items.

The Process


Rather than list Accreditation under Membership, combine them together in the primary navigation as Accreditation and Membership. 


card sort participants



  • Card sort participants placed similar content items in both categories and labeled them Accreditation and Membership.

  • Aligns with strategic goal to promote the value of accreditation.

  • The content is similar and the website visitor can learn how Membership feeds into the Accreditation funnel. My goal is to get website visitors into the accreditation funnel.


Above: Dropdown menu for Accreditation and Membership section on new website

Ultimately, the 3 strategic goals, and the findings from the cross-divisional workshop, the survey, and the card sort activity and informed the sitemap structure.

The Process


A new information architecture was created to inform animal hospital practitioners about accreditation and provide resources for them to run their hospitals more efficiently.

  • AAHA Guidelines is displayed as a primary navigation item, since these were ranked as high priority content in the member survey. These were formerly listed as sub-navigation item under Resources. 

  • Accreditation and Membership is now intentionally listed together as the first primary navigation item, so it will stand out when people scan the page. My goal is to get website visitors into the accreditation funnel.

  • Sub-navigation items for Resources that are based on tasks, such as running your practice, marketing your practice, and information to share with pet owners.

Card sort participants created categories for resources that influenced the sub-navigation for this section.  For instance, categories such as “marketing”, “publicity”, “management resources” were created for the card for Publicity Toolbox.

Above: New navigation dropdown menu for Resources section

The Process


Sketching the wireframes for Home and AAHA Guidelines pages allowed me to focus on highest priority content to communicate.

I created 5 wireframes




AAHA Guidelines Overview


AAHA Guidelines Detail 



Conference microsite

Homepage Wireframe: Visitors are enticed to scroll the page through heartfelt storytelling and warm imagery

5-7 headlines were used to create a story that aligned with AAHA’s products and services to accommodate viewers who scan the page.

Wireframe of homepage
Explain what accreditation means
Promote educational opportunities, including events
Find a specific AAHA Guideline
Screen Shot 2020-10-14 at 9.32.22 PM.png

AAHA launch the new, responsive website


  • 84% increase in accreditation page views

  • 12% reduction in bounce rate

  • 41% increase in healthy workplace initiate culture page views

Home Dog Screen 2019-07-22-sm.jpg

Above: New design on the Homepage 

Want to talk more about design?

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