As we covered in Part One of this blog, when creating or refining your organisation’s intranet, it’s important to research your user’s needs and to test the design solutions.
At ClearPeople, we uncover this type of information during the discovery phase of every intranet project. We aim to uncover the content types, page types and key user journeys of your new intranet in a series of workshops where we’ll identify the pain points and potential labeling issues with the current intranet and offer ways to overcome and improve the navigation system for the end-users.
Card sorting exercises are a good way to determine whether the users accept and understand the structural navigation of the intranet. It is a standard practice of the User Experience (UX) process and helps to gain insight into any areas of confusion and difficulty with existing or proposed layouts, because finding what you’re looking for independently of search, is essential to the adoption and usability of the intranet.
To help evaluate the navigation system on a new intranet, we’ll also conduct tree testing. Tree testing can help to refine and improve a site’s structure before the build takes place. Here, we create some common user tasks that are mapped against the sitemap and then ask end-users to perform these tasks using the proposed navigation on the site structure. Results can be evaluated quickly and tricky terms that cause ‘findability’ problems can readily be identified and adjusted.
Similarly, building Use Cases to document the functional needs of your end-users is essential in tracking, refining and prioritising the requirements of an intranet project. Use Cases are the foundation from which your Functional Specification is written to ensure the delivered User Interface (UI) supports them.
What content should be on the intranet?
We’ve already established that an intranet should provide employees with the information, tools and resources they need to carry out their jobs on a day-to-day basis. But what content is this exactly?
We would never recommend undergoing an intranet project without first understanding the content you already have available. While time consuming, it is near impossible to change something for the better without some honest self-reflection. And the only way to do this is to carry out a content audit.
The aim of the content audit is to provide a foundational cornerstone for content strategy that provides an insight into what content already exists on or for your intranet, how it’s organised and how it’s displayed at a granular page-by-page level. The goal of a content audit is not to simply collect data but to have the information you need to make good decisions about what needs to be created, changed or removed to provide users with a better experience and service.
We have worked with clients who have described their past intranets as “jungles” or “mazes” owing to the sheer depth of content on their site and the inability to find relevant information quickly. By understanding what content you have that needs migrating to your new platform will help you to identify the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as give ownership to each separate page to ensure content is kept up to date and relevant. All pages of the intranet should be trustworthy. If a user finds a reason to distrust any information on the site, their usage will no doubt decline.
At ClearPeople we encourage our clients to think about technology last. Technology is simply the enabler and not the solution. People should always come first.
There are hundreds of different products and systems available to build your intranet platform upon, but it’s about making the right technology decisions that best fits the purpose of your people. Of course, it’s always important to understand what technology your organisation already uses and if the new intranet needs to integrate with other external systems like payroll or CRM.
Ricky Wallace is marketing manager of ClearPeople