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?
Posts Tagged ‘user research’
I stumbled across this technique when carrying out some user research in one of our sites and the intranet webmaster who was my tour guide for the day kept bumping into people she knew in the elevator (or lift in the UK). She asked them what they thought of the intranet and I was really surprised at how much information could be transferred in a very short time. I also got the feeling that, as time was short, users had little time to be polite and so I got a better picture of their true feelings.
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.
Having worked in intranets for over a decade now I know how easy it is to forget who all the work is really for and who else might be affected by the decisions we make.
I have found it useful, especially when changing things , to try and keep the users and stakeholders of my intranet in the forefront of my mind. I manage this by using an approach I call the ‘User/Stakeholder Map’. You can use the map to consider who the key users and stakeholders of your intranet are and, as it’s in a simple graphic format, you can print it off and tack it to a wall so that it is visible to your intranet team at all times.