Reviews and feedback
A designer of websites does not make a designer of intranets. Intranet design is more science than art; more business than creative; more functional than emotional.
James Robertson, founder of Step Two Designs (Sydney, Australia), has a new book on the subject, “Designing intranets: Creating sites that work” that is well worth the read. If you’re going to spend thousands on a redesign, then you would do well to invest US$60 in this book. If you’re crazy enough to undertake a redesign all on your own then you simply must buy this book.
The book also offers some clever insight and suggestions on testing, refining, delivering and launching designs (even with personalization).
James and I have slightly different approaches to intranet design and structure, and occasionally don’t see eye-to-eye on all things intranet, but he really knows his stuff, and has the experience to back it up (even if he does operate in the wrong hemisphere!). You cannot go wrong with his book, only right. Oh, and it also includes a few dozen screenshots of other intranets – including some award winners.
Toby Ward, Prescient Digital Media (Canada)
Does your intranet suffer from a heavy navigation, an unintuitive user experience and an over-abundance of information? If the answer to this is yes, a redesign is probably high on your long list of priorities. But before you sneak off and call your local digital agency, I would encourage you to read Australian intranet expert, James Robertson’s new book “Designing intranets: creating sites that work”.
With its practical guide to intranet design, the book should be a mandatory stop for all intranet professionals if a redesign project is in the pipeline. Sydney-based, but frequently globetrotting, James is one of the world’s most knowledgeable people in the intranet space and we have often had the pleasure of learning from him at various J. Boye events. He is known for his no-nonsense, direct way of highlighting things – a style that has been skillfully transferred to the page in James’ new book.
Through a myriad of valuable real-life examples and expert insights James provides a methodology which is just as effective as it is easy to understand and pick-up. What I particularly like about the book is how strategy and organisational buy-in are stressed as being extremely important for a redesign process. If these things are not carefully handled, success will be very hard to achieve. The book is full of these best practice insights and tips, so besides a practical guide to intranet design you will also get a rich resource of general intranet must-knows.
In short, I can warmly recommend Designing intranets: creating sites that work. The price for the 275 page book is just $60. Bear in mind what a redesign project realistically costs; an excellent business case right there!
Peter Sejersen, J. Boye (Denmark)
I have just finished reading ‘Designing intranets – Creating sites that work’, the latest book written by James Robertson. For those of you who have seen James present or read his blog posts, you will know he gives a clear view to help you – whether you agree with it or not.
James is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on intranets. He has used this experience to write this book.
Whether you are new to intranets or, like me, involved as an intranet manager for years, this book will be very useful to you.
This book will cover all you need to know to be able to create intranet sites that work. And it is the ‘sites that work’ words that make this book different to others. It is more than just a pleasing design. It is what else is needed to be researched, planned and created too that will make your time and effort better spent. Even more, you want the people using your intranet to get the best out of it. This book helps you to do just that!
Why not treat yourself? Read James’ book and help make your life easier and your intranet better by reading James’ book.
Mark Morrell, BT (UK)
Designing Intranets is Robertson’s second book, and the one I just finished. This is the book I’d been looking for all these years. It presents a step-by-step methodology for working though an intranet re-implementation, from IA to actual page design. It’s in-depth, well-written, and I would go so far as to say it’s the authoritative book in the field right now. If you’re looking to build or re-build from scratch, this is the book you want.
Deane Barker, Gadgetopia (USA)
Over all the years that I have known James I have been struck by his passion for user-centric design. This passion comes across very clearly in his latest book on intranet design which will be published in mid-September. Web site designers have no idea how fortunate they are. They have millions of web sites to comb through looking for neat design tricks, and in general web sites have a focus that is just not possible or appropriate for even a small enterprise intranet. However intranet managers have no excuse for not meeting the requirements of their users because in theory they could talk to every single one of them. This is clearly not practical, and the core of this book is about the use of a range of techniques, such as the Microsoft Product Reaction cards, card sorting, tree testing and usability testing, that require the involvement of only a small number of users and can generate excellent intranet designs in a relatively short period of time.
The book starts out by identifying some common design mistakes, and then after chapters on the importance of understanding user requirements and the creation of an intranet brand come the chapters that describe very clearly the techniques mentioned above. Over 30 pages are devoted to the design of the home page. Then comes advice on how to launch a new design, and how to design intranet applications.
James has been running workshops on intranet design for many years, and throughout the book the wisdom gained through not only teaching but listening comes shining through. I cannot recommend this book too highly, and it should be bought by every intranet manager. Even if you are not contemplating a re-design you probably will after reading the book.
Martin White, Intranet Focus (UK)
In his most recent book Designing intranets James Robertson promises nothing less than ‘creating sites that work’. An over-promise? Not at all!
Instead of listing alleged best practices, James describes a methodology how intranets can be conceived to really work within the given context of an organization. By equally balancing employees’ needs and organizational objectives, intranets built this way will delight both management and users. Nothing less than ‘creating sites that work.’
I can honestly recommend this book to every intranet professional.
Lukas Karrer, Stimmt (Switzerland)
Designing Intranets fills a significant gap the intranet manager’s bookshelf. There are plenty of books on web design, but to date none have directly talked about the specific needs of intranets and the very different relationship they have with their users.
James offers a very readable guide to understanding staff needs and translating them into an effective intranet design. There is a good balance between practical techniques and a more strategic perspective on the intranet’s purpose, all well illustrated with examples and screen shots. As always, James’ writing is to the point, sometimes provoking, and enlightened with real-world experience.
Highly recommended: even experienced intranet managers will find something new in this book.
Sam Marshall, ClearBox Consulting (UK)
James Robertson’s “Designing Intranets” is much more than a book on good intranet design patterns. The chapters on branding, card sorting, tree testing and on managing the rollout cover the real nuts and bolts necessary to get a good design going. The book is filled with screenshots and practical advice and is written in a clear and direct way (no fluff inside) — something that James truly excels in. So, if you are a member of an intranet team or a project manager responsible for seeing a redesign through, this book will show you how to create intranets that are truly effective.
Maish Nichani, PebbleRoad (Singapore)
The intranet can be many things – from a simple set of links to a repository of data and functionality for an entire organisation.
Unfortunately, the intranet can also be a swamp, sucking all who approach into a morass of politics, vague notions and poorly-executed functions. A poor intranet wastes time and money, and is an endless source of frustration for staff who are forced to work around – or without – it.
If you want to learn about designing a good intranet, here’s an opportunity to learn from someone who spends his working life thinking about them and helping organisations master them.
James Robertson’s book is a comprehensive and practical guide to the things you need to do when designing, implementing and maintaining a practical, useful, cost-effective and efficient intranet. Don’t build one without it.
Gerry Gaffney, Information & Design (Australia)
James’ new book will help anyone involved with intranets become a star performer. It provides many practical and valuable ideas, tips and
techniques that will help you build an intranet that will be critical to your organisation.
Andrew Wright, CIBA Solutions (Australia)
James Robertson is one of the rare intranet consultants who “speaks intranet” in a way that is relevant to all intranet managers. James’ both broad and deep knowledge is evident once again in “Designing intranets: creating sites that work”. This hard-talking, crystal-clear guide will bring a lot of value to both inexperienced and very experienced intranet managers. The phrase “designing intranets” is not to be taken lightly. We are talking about understanding user and business needs, planning, testing, methodologies and other pragmatic and strategic topics, all critical to making your intranet valuable for your organization.
The chapter titles speak for themselves: Intranet design matters, Common design mistakes, Understanding staff needs, and so on. He discusses the seven roles of the homepage, he explains how to accelerate your design approach, he guides you in personalisation and targeting, he includes intranet search, the staff directory and business applications.
What’s unique about this book, and about James in general is that he never makes a statement without both giving examples and telling you how to do it! If you’re very experienced, yet wondered “have I forgotten anything?”, this book is for you. If you are new to the job of intranet management, this book a fast track for getting up to speed.
I highly recommend “Designing intranets: creating sites that work”. The second part of the title is what the book is really all about: creating intranets that work – for the user and for the business.
Jane McConnell, NetStrategy/JMC (France)