USPS Mailing StandardsCMU collaborated with the US Postal Service to improve the Domestic Mail Manual, a 1500-page collection of standards that governs the flow of mail within the United States.
As part of a small team of graduate and PhD students, I spent two years working on the final document in the series, the DMM 300.
The ProblemThe Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) was first redesigned over a decade ago by the Postal Service with a mandate to reduce redundancy within the document. The redesign accomplished that, but introduced a new problem. By dividing the rules into discrete categories with no overlap, readers were forced to flip back and forth more often between multiple sections.
The disorientation within the new structure meant that users were never quite sure they had all the information they needed to complete a mailing.
Our ApproachThe first few months of this project were spent on user research. We talked with postal employees and large mailers around the country in order to understand how they actually completed their mailings.
Most customers mail the same sort of things week in and week out. That means they only use a fraction of the information inside the book. We realized that focusing on these "user pathways" was the key to the redesign.