It has been said that the worst liar is the one who lies to himself. Web stats makes this easy. So what are the ways that we can fool ourselves?
Even well resourced organisations with wonderful, rich websites can struggle with this question. They spend time and money on sophisticated web stats software and user research and feel that through this they have got a handle on what their users think when, in actual fact, they could be off the mark by several magnitudes. Why might this be true?
I tried to think of different ways of approaching this topic and using a story seemed the best. I’ve had some complementary comments about the story too but what does it all really mean? Quite simply it’s all about the death of the intranet as we know it.
Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll explain as we go along.
‘A man once had a garden. He grew vegetables for a living and liked it well enough. His garden had high walls all around it so no one could look at his garden and see how he grew his vegetables but he never thought about the walls much, the walls had always been there and probably always would. So every day he worked in his garden and did the best he could. His produce sold okay, not great but it provided a living, and so he kept doing what he had always done before.
Then one day a salesman knocked at the gardener’s door. With a glib smile he showed the gardener what he said was ‘the future of gardening’. ‘Why bother with lots of tools when you only really need one and here it is!’ With a flourish he pulled a sheet off a huge gold coloured machine. ‘This is it, the Golden Machine. It will do everything that a walled garden needs, for walled gardens like yours are really special and so must have special machines. Look here are some endorsements’.
There’s a conference being held in a few days and one of its features is Do you have the best intranet homepage? This got me thinking and I had a look at some sample homepages from ‘award winning intranets’ and, to be honest, I felt vaguely depressed. It took me a while to figure out why, which I did with the help of one of Jakob Nielsen’s posts from a few years ago. It showed a composite image of ten intranet homepages which showed a strong commonality and the most recent ones don’t look much different.
It has been claimed that the homepage reflects the whole intranet, if that is so then all intranets are overly complicated and stuff content packages that have no relevance to each other into a big bag labelled ‘intranet’.
You’ve been feeling low, you have no energy and you’re starting to get worried. You go to the doctor who, after checking a few vital parameters, tells you there’s nothing major wrong and prescribes some medication that will help you get back to normal. We would never dream of taking chances with our health so we get regular check ups and, if the worst comes to the worst, we hope that anything major is caught early enough to be able to do something about it.
This is just common sense isn’t it? Yet organizations can expend huge resources on their intranets and communication systems but generally have no idea of how healthy they are at any one time. This contributes to the all too common phenomenon of intranet boom and bust. Someday it just dawns on everyone that their intranet is not fit for purpose but shouldn’t they have seen it coming? Unfortunately it can be hard unless you have a system in place which effectively provides a regular health checkup for your intranet.
This post provides a methodology which will enable you to do just that – the Intranet Heath Check.
Intranets don’t work. Why? Because not enough resources are given to them to ensure they have a chance of success. Why aren’t resources made available? Because intranets don’t work. A vicious circle is born.
In this post I’m attempting to provide an approach that may help intranet teams to make the case for better resources and to break out of this vicious circle for good.
In this fifth and final post on Designing Intranet Structures I’ll be looking at what should happen once you have agreed the structure of your new or re-designed intranet with your users and stakeholders – mapping and continuously improving your intranet.
In Part 3 I discussed how the design of URLs can play a big part in forming the initial structure of your new or re-designed intranet. In this post I’ll explain how users and stakeholders can contribute to defining the structure, why iteration is the key to a good intranet structure, why content is important and why thinking of the future is important.