Design intranets all the way to the bottom.

Intranet redesigns are not small projects. There is a significant amount of design, usability and information architecture work, not to mention the laborious content migration process. What is launched is almost certainly an improvement on the old intranet, but the question must be asked: how much of an improvement? In too many cases, the vast majority of effort is devoted to the intranet home page, the overall information architecture and the page layout. Lower pages in the site are often migrated more- or-less unchanged, with much of the internal structure within sections only slightly updated from the old intranet. This

Quantitatively test the effectiveness of your home page.

Staff should be able to confidently, quickly and accurately step from the home page of the intranet towards the information they require. If staff can't achieve this without resorting to search, the home page needs to be redesigned. As discussed in Full site redesign? Start by addressing the home page, many home pages fail because they are exclusively devoted to exposing new and useful content. Both of these have a place on a home page, but they should be kept in proportion with its role as a gateway to all site content. This article explains a quick and effective technique

Full site redesign? Start by addressing the home page.

When an intranet isn't working effectively, many organisations attempt to tackle the problem with a full-scale redesign of the site or the implementation of a content management system. But these major projects can create as many issues as they resolve: they are time-consuming to specify and implement they often involve the acquisition of new technology there is no guarantee they will address the real issues major IT projects don't have a good track record of being successful Rather than embarking on a major project at the first sign of trouble, consider tactical solutions such as the redesign of the home

The “all together” rule for intranets.

The primary purpose of intranets is to support staff in doing their jobs, to help them complete common business tasks. In practice, however, this can be very frustrating on many intranets. Policies are located in one section, procedures in another section, and forms in a third. Information then needs to be hunted out in order to complete even simple activities. The effectiveness of intranets can be greatly enhanced by bringing together all of the information and tools relating to a task or a subject, and presenting them in a single location. This is the basis for the "all together" rule

Don’t finalise the site structure until you’ve created page layouts.

There is a worrying trend emerging in the field of information architecture: organisations are attempting to finalise site structures without evaluating their effectiveness in the context of a web page. Card sorting and card-based classification provide excellent insights into the inherent structure behind content. Both are excellent tools for defining strict taxonomies, but they do not necessarily generate the most approachable structure for a site. Content centred design is not necessarily user centred design. Browser windows impose many limitations, one of the most obvious is space. Failure to consider the reality that the site structure must function in the context

Information scent: helping people find the content they want.

This month's KM Column article is written by Iain Barker, and it covers the topic of information scent. To quote: How can organisations make it easier for users to step through a site and find the information they are looking for? Much is made of the importance of clear navigation headings and adherence to the three-click rule, but there is another largely under-employed, cheap and simple technique that has a more positive impact on the usability of a site. This article introduces the concept of information scent and explains how creating strong information scents enables users to confidently step through

What is information architecture?.

Iain Barker has written our KM Column article for this month, answering the question: what is information architecture? To quote: Organising functionality and content into a structure that people are able to navigate intuitively doesn't happen by chance. Organisations must recognise the importance of information architecture or else they run the risk of creating great content and functionality that no one can ever find. This article provides an introduction to information architecture, discusses the evolution of the discipline and provides a 9-step guide for how to create an effective information architecture.

Fast-tracking research with paired interviews.

The second CM Briefing for April has been written by Iain Barker, and it introduces paired interviews. To quote: A paired interview is a method of collecting information from several people at the same time who represent the target audience. The paired interview is not two interviews being conducted simultaneously. The emphasis of the paired interview is to create a dynamic in which the participants interact with each other. In so doing, they validate or clearly identify differences in working practices and terminology.

10 ways to continuously improve your intranet.

Our KM Column article for December has been written by both Donna Maurer and Tina Calabria, and it explores how to continuously improve your intranet. To quote: The amount of work involved in designing a new intranet or redesigning an existing intranet is minor compared to the time needed to maintain an effective intranet over the longer term. In fact, it is common for the initial excitement of a new intranet to fade away as the reality of day-to-day maintenance and the challenges of improving the intranet become apparent. This article outlines 10 practical ways that an intranet can be

Using a “strawman” for page layout design.

Donna has also written the second CM Briefing, on the use of a strawman for page layout design. To quote: Designing the page layouts for a new or redesigned intranet can be complex. One of the most difficult aspects is creating the first layout. Starting with an empty screen, you need to determine what will go on each page and where it will go. Using a strawman design - a design that is created with the intent of discarding it - can help to overcome many of the difficulties in the design process.