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.
Posts Tagged ‘content’
Recently speaking at Janus Boye’s ‘Intranets at Work’ conference I introduced the concept of the intranet life cycle and intranet ‘boom and bust’.
I have been thinking about this concept for many years, ever since I carried out some initial use research for a local government intranet I was trying to get off the ground.
I was doing some contextual research with staff, sitting down with people at their desks and asking what they did, trying to establish their information needs and wants. I started talking to one guy and gave him the prepared spiel about what the project was and what we were trying to achieve when a knowing smile grew on his face. He’d been with the organization for over fifteen years and he had seen it all before. He co-operated fully and gave me some great data but the way he wished me luck at the end of the interview made me feel like I was going to need it. I asked him why.
In Part 1 I discussed the importance of considering content during the whole of the design process and the need to give it the same weight that the user through UCD/UX currently receives in most web projects. So how might this be accomplished?
I recognize that all web projects are unique is some way and any approach has to be tailored, so in this post I’m going to provide a fairly high level methodology, a methodology however that gives users and content the same emphasis. It has now become the norm that the needs and wants of users are considered at every stage of a project. I want content to have the same recognition.
This post is about content and how it should be recognized as a major player in any web design or intranet project. I have written about the concept of content centred design before and how online versions of hard copy content objects can lead to a much diminished user experience. I used the online dictionary as an example of this.
I wrote then that -
‘Content must be viewed as a stakeholder’
Nothing I have seen in the time since I wrote the above has changed my mind. Content must be considered as important a stakeholder in the design process as the user in order to ensure a balanced, rational approach to any web design project. By ignoring this fact designers and web teams are overlooking an essential element that would contribute to a better final product. By either ignoring content, or leaving any consideration to near the end of a project, the final design has a high likelihood of being sub-optimal.
A while ago I was surprised to be invited to talk about the ‘Lean Intranet’ at the Intranet Summit in Frankfurt. I was even more surprised when I first looked at the programme and found out that in fact I was to be was the keynote speaker opening the summit. A real honour indeed!
The summit lasted two days, finishing yesterday, and I enjoyed every minute. Before I launched my presentation I explained that one reason why I was always thrilled when I attend intranet conferences, of which there isn’t enough in my opinion, was that I knew I was with people who have felt the same pain as myself. When I said this it raised a lot of wry smiles. I think that conferences such as the Intranet Summit are vital in raising the morale of intranet workers who can often feel very isolated and under-appreciated in their own organizations.
I need to thank Stephan Schillerwein of the IntranetMatters blog who was kind enough to act as interpreter and especially Bjoern Negelmann and Thomas Koch of Kongress Media who looked after me as if I were a visiting king. Although my foreign language skills are virtually non-existent, and most of the presentations were in German, I found that I could understand quite a bit as they were also using ‘intranet speak’ and some of the screenshots were very informative. The networking afterwards was really rewarding and I must thank everyone I spoke to for switching to English when I was around. That was real hospitality.
I could go on for longer about what a good time I had but, not wanting to be the boring guy who goes on for ages about how great his holidays were, I’ll get to the point of this post.
I’ve written before on an approach called Content Value Analysis (CVA) and I’ve now produced the detail of how this might be done in practice. Chiara Fox of Adaptive Path in her presentation on Content Analysis came closest to this approach when she talked about Content Audits at Euro IA 2008.
However there is a crucial difference between our approaches – the use of statistical techniques and documented heuristics. No don’t reach for that mouse yet! What I’m suggesting is not difficult, will give great substance to your final analysis and will probably save you a lot of work.