Category Archives: user testing

How to succeed with mobile collaboration

On day 2 of the WCMS14 conference I ran a workshop about mobile collaboration. People can help each other or can ask for help to collaborate. Having mobile access means you can do this whenever you need to and not have to wait any more. To achieve this there are four areas to focus on:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Manage it smartly
  3. Technology has to meet business needs
  4. Involve people with mobiles

1. Make it easy

The main point is to create an overall consistent experience for people whatever device they use. With more mobile devices than traditional PCs being sold now, organisations should put the need of mobile people first.
By removing the barriers, mobile users don’t need extra logins to be able to collaborate online. It should also be possible to collaborate while offline and the tool synchronise and update automatically.
Research with mobile users what they need most to help them collaborate online, what experience it needs to be and identify tools with the best adoption rates and understand why.

Manage it smartly

It is important that any governance is built to help people collaborate while mobile and not hinder this aim. By extending existing publishing standards to cover mobile use appropriately you continue with one governance framework. The same applies to roles and responsibilities for content and app owners as well as intranet managers.
The findability of content is critical. Having one search engine that covers all the information architecture helps to achieve this. The decision over whether you have one version of the content or app which is responsive to different designs or different versions for each size screen will depend on the information architecture you develop and on security needs.
How long is it before information become knowledge? Your answer to that will decide whether all your collaborative content stays online and is searchable or is archived after a period of time or inactivity or removed permanently. There are no right or wrong answers but you do have to decide what is best for your organisation.

Technology has to meet business needs

Make sure you have the right solution for the right business requirements. This means being very clear what you need before you start to research the technology that can meet your business needs. It will probably also mean you don’t choose the top solution, partly due to the costs, but also because it provides features and functions that you have no immediate or foreseeable need for.
Any technology for mobile collaboration bought or developed needs to be configurable and shown to work with existing systems and platforms.
You need to consider how many operating systems your organisation will support for the different mobile devices used for mobile collaboration. This needs to cover the issue of BYOD. A balance needs to be struck which may be something like x number of operating systems will be guaranteed to give a good mobile user experience and support y mobile devices. You can choose other mobile devices but you should not expect to be guaranteed a good mobile experience.

Involve people with mobiles

You should not assume what collaboration tools people with mobile devices need. You need to research their needs not just make something accessible from a mobile device and say the experience is good enough.
Involve people at the earliest stage of developing the user experience. As soon as the development is good enough for basic use it should be thrown open to mobile users to test out. They can feedback any problems or improvements that will help them to collaborate better to be acted upon.
A perpetual beta development status can be adopted for the mobile collaboration tools to avoid long delays in improvements, the need for major re-launches. Small, incremental, changes can be made quickly based on clear feedback and involvement from mobile users.
Lastly the testing can be a formal User Acceptance testing approach or more informal and open to anyone with a mobile device to use at any time. The process needs to be transparent and a playground/sandpit available where all development can be tested out. This may need IT to change its approach!

Summary

  1. Remove barriers that prevent adoption
  2. Have one governance framework
  3. Right mobile collaboration tools that meet needs
  4. Involve people who use mobile

 

Showing the value of your information

I want to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  Information should be something that can be used to help you with your work and be useful to you.

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  What pitfalls should you avoid so people avoid your information!

It always surprises me when I see other intranets and digital workplaces how poor the management of their information is shown to people who need to use it.  Most of this is down to poor governance but there are other factors that come into play and show people the content is not valued.

There are also good examples of best practice shown with other intranets and digital workplaces which should be shared and adopted more widely.

As people use an increasing variety of ways to find and use information e.g. laptop, tables, smartphone, and the type of information grows e.g  company policy, news article, blog post or discussion thread comment they still need answers to some basic questions:

  1. Why should I use this information?
  2. How can I rely on it for my work?
  3. Who can help me further?
  4. Can it help others?
  5. Will it change in future?

In future posts I will give you tips on what to do/not to do to help you to show how valuable your information is to people who want to use it.  A lot of these will be very simple and obvious steps you should take.

Please leave me a comment with any good examples or gripes you have over problems you experience with information.  I am not the font of all knowledge on this subject and would love to help you to help others. :)

 

How to help people to find your content

One of the areas that I get asked for help with is how to make it easier for people using their intranet to find the information they need for their work.

How people are able to find your information or site is critical to how good their experience of it is.  It’s no good having this fantastic source of knowledge on your intranet if no one can find it!

If you are making a major change to your intranet or maybe a smaller improvement to it e.g. launching a new site, it is very wise to test it with some volunteers who can feedback and influence any refinements so it gives the best experience when launched.

One way to help you is to create an information architecture – a structure and menu to help people find their way around your intranet easily – to test with people who could benefit from this new information to be launched.

An online testing tool can take the guesswork out of information architecture and help you check where the right place should be as well as the most suitable headings.

I have found ‘tree testing’ – a usability technique for evaluating the findability of information – is a good way with a simple text version of your intranet structure and hierarchy.  You can also use it to test the structure of a new site to check the content and headings are shown in the best way.

A small amount of funding for online testing can save you the time and effort second guessing where people may expect to find your content.  It will also help people who need to use your information having a better experience.

Can you recommend a tool that has helped you?

A great mobile experience needs….

In my previous post in this series on mobile ‘Good governance signals right mobile direction’ I said mobile is one of the key drivers for the transformation of intranets into digital workplaces which could become mobile workplaces but progress is patchy.  It is no surprise if I say setting the right direction for your organisation with mobile is critical.  Having some good governance principles helps you to continue in the right way and underpin your strategy.

We also need to give people a great mobile experience.  But what exactly does that mean?  Here are my thoughts on what is needed to achieve this in my last post in this series.

Mobile audience

Firstly, you need to make sure the people who will benefit the most are able to use a mobile device.  You need to be clear who will benefit from having a mobile device.  It probably will not be everyone.  Even if it is, you will need to prioritise who has the greatest need.  Factors like the number of people involved, time spent away from their place of work and what contribution they can make, will help decide the greatest need.

When you have the right people then you can find out what information and which services they most need, when they need to use them and how they need to use them, to be able to design and test for a good mobile experience.

Mobile devices

Secondly, you need to choose which mobile devices are the best tool to help people with their work.  For example, is it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, or maybe a combination of more than one of these that is needed?  Will you let people bring their own devices to work or will your organisation provide them?  These decisions are critical and will depend on your organisation’s corporate values, type of employees, security, funding and speed of adoption.  Once these decisions have been made you can then focus on how you start to create a good mobile experience.

Once you know how to support the type of devices and size of screens being used, and the main purpose people will be using their mobile device for, you can start to create a good mobile experience.

Mobile platform

Lastly, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure to support the needs of mobile workers in your organisation.  This means access to the information and tools needs to be 24/7 and not just normal working hours.  It means business continuity plans must include how people will still have mobile access to what they need for work.  Your organisation needs to consider the different mobile operating systems and devices it will support; what is the cost; what should be the limit; which systems and devices will have most overall benefit?

You also need to give a fast connection when mobile workers need it for their work to the information and tools.  Why would you want a mobile device if you find it takes ages to connect to any content or services you need to use?

Good mobile experience

So, what is needed for a great mobile experience?  These bullet points help summarise the posts on mobile:

  • A mobile strategy aligned to business needs
  • Supported by a governance framework
  • Helping meet the needs of people using mobile devices
  • Research and test with mobile users
  • Get the infrastructure in place
  • Have a policy on using mobile users for business purposes

If you need any more information please contact me.

7 navigation principles for mega menus

Many organisations are are planning to or already use mega menus on their intranet to help employees navigate to the information or tools they need to use.  I have been involved in developing several mega menus based on different business needs while helping with SharePoint 2010.  Some have been more successful than others at giving a great user experience……….and that’s what you are really aiming to achieve.

People need to be confident wherever they are in the intranet and with what they need to go and do next.  I believe some navigation principles help you decide if a mega menu is for your intranet.

Navigation principles for mega menus

  1. It helps people get to what they need more quickly.
  2. The headings are consistently placed in the same position on every page.
  3. The headings are specific and clearly labelled to avoid any confusion or hesitation.
  4. The content under each heading is relevant to the heading’s title and links to the right page.
  5. The content under each heading should only be the most important and popular headings – don’t try to duplicate all your intranet.
  6. The size of the each section of links under each heading should be limited and be used.
  7. Test it with a sample of people first before launching or making any major changes every time.

My view is the mega menu must help people to get quickly and easily to the most important and popular pages they need to use on the intranet.

I have experienced both static mega menus (same headings, position nd links) and moveable menus that change as they follow you around from one part of the intranet to another.  The feedback has been almost universal from people using them.  Static menus work and changeable menus cause confusion and are avoided by most people.

When people are more familiar with and use the intranet more frequently maybe you can test with people want to change to moveable headings and content depending on where they are in the intranet?

Help with intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration and SharePoint

Thinking about what is the best way to implement SharePoint 2010?

Are you looking for good examples of managing intranets?

Are you planning how to transform your digital workplace?

Maybe you want to use collaboration tools to increase employee engagement?

Now you can find helpful information on all these areas in one site.  It combines my first-hand experience managing BT’s intranet with my knowledge and help improving other intranets to show how you can improve your intranets and digital workplaces.

If I can help you further please contact me whenever you want to.

10 ways to increase intranet adoption

Since 1996 I have been pioneering the best ways to increase adoption of new tools on the intranet.  For the 9 years as the BT Intranet manager and since then as a consultant, I have experienced different ways organisations have encouraged adoption of technology.  My top 10 ways are:

Research what people need

Ask what their biggest pain points are.  What could be made easier?  What is missing from the intranet?  What is good and they want more of?

Prioritise improvements

How important is the task to the person and to their organisation?  How many people are affected by this?  How frequently is it happening?

Early adopters to become ambassadors

Identify adopters who have the most urgent need to try something new to solve a business problem.  Involve adopters in proposed changes as early as possible to get their buy-in.  Satisfied adopters will be your best ambassadors and spread the word.

Make the first experience a good experience

You need to encourage not discourage usage to avoid unnecessary costs in extra effort.  Act on early adopters’ feedback.  Test with usability experts.  Compare with existing best practice.

Advance communications so no nasty surprises

Manage peoples’ expectations.  Clearly explain what it is you are offering and where they can get advice, training and help.

Consistent navigation

Give people a bridge from wherever they were on your intranet to get to another part more easily.  Show the same headings and position on every page.  Find out what are the best navigation headings that would help people most.

Personalise and target information

Give people the relevant information they need.  Give people the applications they need to use.  Give people confidence their personal information is secure.

Embed standards into templates

Reduce the barrier for publishing. Make it as easy as possible to do.  Focus on what is important – the quality of the information – not how to use the technology.  Consistently apply governance.  Embed standards in the templates.

Compliance tools give users confidence

Standards need to be enforced when publishers’ behaviour falls below best practice.  Compliance tools enforce important standards – business, regulatory and legal requirements –  and minimise time and administration.  Users’ confidence in the integrity of the information must not  be compromised.

Clear responsibilities and roles

Who is responsible for managing the intranet strategy, standards, IT infrastructure?  What should everyone involved – publishers, contributors – need to do?  Align intranet roles with performance management and job descriptions.

When will mobile priorities come first?

When will organisations start designing and creating applications, web pages and social media tools with mobile devices as the first priority before PC users?

More and more people are using smartphones for their work.  While travelling or working remotely from their normal place of work they need to use their intranet.

But we still design for PC users as the first priority.  This can mean it is more difficult than it need be when using a smartphone on your intranet wasting unnecessary time or having to involve others taking them away from their work.

When will the tipping point come and first priority be to check that anyone with a smartphone can have a great experience using a new intranet tool?

When the Intranet Benchmarking Forum last benchmarked BT’s intranet they said “BT’s intranet is designed to support mobile workers so it is fully accessible from mobile devices.  Mobile users use a text-based interface.”

People in BT can use their Blackberrys to:

With the rollout of SharePoint 2010 it is critical that people can use their Blackberrys to do this.  As you can see from comparing these screenshots showing SP2010 sites using a PC and Blackberry that is possible.

How long before the experience is as good or even better when you use a smartphone compared to a PC though?

Start small, build quick, keep it cheap

While I was at the Employee Portal Evolution Masters conference I was struck by the number of organisations who were interested in using social media tools but were not sure what approach to take.

To justify any investment funding you need to have a strong business case – even more so in these difficult economic times – that clearly shows the benefits to the organisation of adopting social media tools.  That justification has to have good reasons backed up by clear evidence of how it benefits the organisation.

 Here are a few points to remember and use:

Start small

Have an idea of what you need to do.  Try using personas to help identify a typical group of people with a similar need.  Find a few volunteers to test out what the tool will do.  I talked in a previous post about beta testing with people as you develop a new tool. 

Build quick

You need one friendly person in IT, a PC, maybe a small server and the software.  You need to make sure it works – no fancy design, just out of the box functionality – before you start to testing. 

Go with the flow! 

Whatever you think it needs to do let the volunteers testing it set the direction that helps them most.  They will be using it in future – not you!

Keep it cheap

It is important to avoid any unneccesary costs.  If possible try something for free.  By keeping it to a small number of people testing and just one PC or server you avoid high star-up costs.

Next steps

When you have clear evidence of benefits, more people wanting to use it, buy-in from IT, you can then build a business case showing how it will help your organisation.  You may be asked for more or better examples but it is less likely you will get a ‘NO!’ response.

Then consider what guidance, training, education and governance is needed.

Good luck!

Designing intranets: a ‘must read’

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!

I have found it helps reinforce why BT’s intranet is like it is and why the things I do are important such as:

As I write this blog post ‘Designing intranets’ is by my side. Some parts of James’ book are looking well used already as I’ve thumbed through them several times for tips to help me!

Why not treat yourself? Read James’ book and help make your life easier and your intranet better by reading James’ book.