I am part of a large webapp project, but a small UX team (we just went from 1 to 2, a few weeks ago). We were brought in terribly late in the process, to the point where there was literally no chance to do site orientation, product familiarization, competitor analysis, or pre-development user studies (Yes, there's a huge, existing user group out there. Sadly, we have no access to them... we DO have Subject Matter Experts in-house though). I am currently running emergency workshops to begin getting a feel for the past product and what the expectations are for the up-and-coming new iteration, as well of areas of concern. To give you a feel for the scale of this project, the webapp is projected to have over 1200 pages, with an identified 120+ business processes.
Now with the context slightly defined, onto the question!
A very important part of this project is the implementation of a navigation toolbar. To give a point of reference, this application will support easily over 140 independent tasks (better to think of them as business processes).
As discussed in other threads, nested hierarchy is a huge concern, and a point of constant consternation. Some of my workshops focus on card-sorting to see how the relationships between these elements are perceived by the SME’s.
However, besides prototyping and subsequent testing (our timeframe is under 4 months for a deliverable of almost 14 processes), I need a quick method for finding appropriate guidelines for constructing this navigation toolbar. Guidelines that really speak to the users needs. I can do "genius design" and using my experience, create something I think is appropriate. But, then why am I here? The methods I use need to inform not only at this stage, but scalable to later stages as the number of processes increases dramatically.
Can StackExchange identify any quick methods besides rapid prototyping, card sorting, SME interviews? Anything specific to hierarchy sorting/display? Remember, this webapp is MASSIVE, and we don't have time (or even access) to do “proper” user testing.