1. Thomas Maeder

    I enjoy reading your articles and books and I totally agree with you about the need for those “business unit landing pages”. Currently I’m working on a big Intranet project where the main navigation will be the business units. I know, that this is a bad choice – since it’s a organisation centric IA – but for various reasons it’s not possible to change that in the short term. We will work on it in the mid term ;-)
    We therefore decided to implement “business unit landing pages” and so far everybody thinks it’s a good idea. We now even plan to go a step further and facilitate the information access with mega drop-downs in the main navigation. Now we wonder how we can align these two concepts, so that it’s not going to happen that the end user will skip the “business unit landing page” because of the navigation options in the mega drop-down that take him directly to a specific page/section. I would really appreciate to get your opinion on this. Thanks!

    • James Robertson

      @Thomas, funnily enough this came up in discussions within our team just last week!

      I fear that there is some inherent conflict between mega-menus and business unit landing pages. While I’m not going to say “definitely do one, not the other”, it does strike me that mega-menus probably make more sense for smaller sites. For very large sites, I’d tend to go with better designed landing pages, as they give a lot more space for effective navigation…

  2. Funnily enough I was having this conversation with a client yesterday – I’ve forwarded them the link!

    There are some instances where we’ve used descriptive webparts (for instance on pages dealing with brands and products) but for functions like Finance and HR I completely agree that they are unnecessary.

  3. Thomas Maeder

    @James, thanks for the reply.

    We will probabley do a trial of using both concepts combined. Our idea is to have in the mega drop-downs a navigation entry called “overview” (or something similar) that takes the user directly to the “business landing page”. Do you think that’s a good idea or do you have any other suggestions?

    • James Robertson

      @Thomas, I say: give it a go, and see whether people use it! There is very little usability research that has been done on this, so if you can report back on your experiences that would benefit the whole community! :-)

      There would be a few ways of testing it:

      * do some loose usability testing with end users, on early paper prototypes or mockups (do they understand it? what do they click on?)
      * more serious task-based usability testing on draft systems or completed site (what actually gets used?)
      * ongoing analytics, using click maps, etc (what are people clicking on?)

      My gut feel is that the “overview” link, being an unusual concept, will probably be overlooked by staff. But hey, only one way to find out! :-)

  4. The shop window seems great for directing users to a single link/page. However, without a side menu, how would users get to other links/pages in the section without using the browser back function? Are all links one page deep and the main tab ‘My employment’ is used to navigate?

    • James Robertson

      @Trent, the reality is that staff rarely navigate “horizontally” within an intranet. Instead, they head always downwards, and if done (or lost) use the back button to go back up. When they’ve found what they’re looking for, they close the intranet.

      There are obviously some cases in which they want to browse within a section (eg to understand all the leave options on offer). Even then, I’ve not observed staff using the left-hand menu extensively.

      Now, your users may have different behaviour. What have you observed?

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Published October 26, 2010

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter)

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