A good intranet can only be built on the foundation of solid user research. James Robertson talks about this in his excellent article Conducting intranet needs analysis . James discusses several methodologies that can be used but the one I want to focus on is what James calls ‘contextual enquiry’ .
To quote James directly –
‘(Contextual enquiry) is a combination of staff interviews and workplace observation that involves exploring issues with a staff member, while situated within their normal working environment. By conducting the interview ‘in context’, it becomes possible to see the resources used by staff when conducting work activities.
The interviewer can also ask the staff member to show them how they complete specific activities, for example, showing how they find a piece of information on the intranet.’
Over the years I’ve found contextual enquiry to be by far the most illuminating, innovative and motivating experience associated with intranet user research.