Tag Archives: usability standards

Good governance signals right mobile direction

In my previous post in this series on mobile I asked ‘Why you need a mobile strategy‘ and showed that 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.

Mobile governance principles

You need to have the following in place:

  1. A champion who will sponsor your strategy and the direction you take
  2. Stakeholders who represent your organisation’s key business areas and functions with the right decision-making authority
  3. Roles and responsibilities that include meeting the needs of mobile users
  4. Standards for owners of content and tools to follow so mobile devices can easily use these

Mobile standards

You need to have standards consistently but appropriately applied for mobile content and apps.  This may mean a change of focus to how your publishing standards are applied to how content is already used.  I will focus on three standards which are most important to a good mobile experience:

Security

It is critical to protect the intellectual property and commercial interests of your organisation.  It is also important to make the method of accessing content and apps from a mobile device secure and easy to do.  It is no good having several logins with different passwords just to quickly look up a person’s contact details you need to quickly check something with just before you enter a meeting.  People just won’t have the time and patience to follow this method.

But you do need some intelligent software working in the background to ensure you know who is accessing content with a mobile device.  Getting the balance right between these two needs is sometimes delicate to achieve but essential for the benefits of mobile use to be achieved.

BYOD

Bring your own device is increasingly seen as important to employers and employees.  It offers businesses opportunities and productivity benefits if it can be successfully introduced.  It manages the threats from wider security systems by having processes to monitor these.  You need a BYOD policy for mobile devices coming onto the network that may not have been checked.  By a combination of tools to implement it and educating and building trust with employees on how to use mobile devices this can help.

Usability

This is even more important than usual because of the smaller and different screen sizes for mobile devices.  Think about the difference in size of screens between a smartphone, tablet, and laptop.  Yet you will need mobile workers to be able to use the device that is best for their needs.  You need to get your content editors and apps developers to think about mobile first when designing how people need to use their information or apps for their work.  This may be some mind and culture change for some people!

The interface for each device needs to be clean, simple, with any key functionality easy to find and use and unnecessary links, extra content, and functionality stripped out.  Always test with mobile users at each stage of development and before launching to check it will meet their needs.

My last post in this series will focus on the mobile experience.

How to govern a digital workplace

In my last post on the digital workplace I talked about how you need a strategy to help you create a great digital workplace.  Remember you’re not just doing this for the sake of it!  Your aim is to demonstrate how it will support your organisation’s strategy and key priorities.

Once you have your strategy agreed you need to build a governance framework to help you to implement and manage your digital workplace.  It is important all your digital workplace is managed to give the maximum benefit to your organisation, individuals and collectively, everyone.  The right level of governance needed will balance the rewards to be gained while avoiding any risks.  That doesn’t come naturally but through you establishing a good governance model.

The aim is to create a great online user experience that encourages people to feel comfortable shifting their how and where they work to a digital workplace.  To do that you need a governance framework that includes:

Ownership

You need to have a governance hierarchy that starts at the top with who is responsible for the digital workplace and flows through to who uses the it to publish, collaborate, complete tasks or just view content.

Who is responsible for developing the strategy, implementing the digital workplace and managing it?  It is difficult for one person to have the knowledge, experience, and authority needed for so many key roles and activities.  Neither is it best for it to be one person.

The best solution is to have a steering group with senior managers from key parts of the business most affected by or have most influence on your digital workplace.  These senior managers should have decision-making authority not someone who has to refer back to his/her line manager and delay matters.

There may be dedicated roles for people responsible for collaboration, ways of working, etc., but they should ultimately report in to the steering group.  You need to avoid competing groups of people implementing conflicting standards, designs, and ways to use the digital workplace.  That gives a confusing and poor experience for anyone using it.

Consistency

You really need a consistent level of governance across your digital workplace.  By consistent I don’t mean the same but what everyone should expect.

People who publish in the digital workplace accredited types of content (policies, news, etc.) need a more rigorous approach is needed than for collaborative content where opinions and views change and require a lighter touch of governance.

People using the digital workplace to view content, complete tasks or share knowledge with each other, expect its look and feel to be similar.  Tools can have minimal branding without great costs or customising.  Features need to encourage you to use them more such as help links, contact points, with easily laid out and functional designs.

Integrating the different parts of the digital workplace is needed so they are seen as being connected and encourage you to use it more and feel comfortable.

Standards

One way to gain consistency is to have standards based on the needs of the organisation, regulation, legal and users.  These can be applied appropriately across the digital workplace depending on their use.  For accredited content (policies and procedures) you will apply all or most standards.  For applications e.g. HR processes, it’s probable that most will apply too.  But for collaborative content e.g. opinions, you will apply a lighter touch.

Alternatively you can create standards that only apply to certain information and applications to meet the purpose people need to use it for.

The aim has to be about getting the balance right.  You don’t have to be too restrictive and stifle innovation and collaboration.  But you can’t to be too loose and inconsistent and risk sensitive information leaking out.  It’s not easy but the right balance is critical.

Integrity

For me, this is the critical goal to aim for.  Are you confident using the information and tools in your digital workplace?  Does it encourage you to use the digital workplace more?

The answer has to be ‘YES!’ to these questions. Having the right governance framework with standards consistently applied and clear roles and responsibilities are vital to a successful digital workplace.

Please contact me if you need my help or leave a comment on this post.  My next post will cover how your digital workplace can engage people more with your organisation.

Have you got intranet litter?

Has your intranet got content littered all over it which isn’t very useful to people needing to use it?

By litter I mean no or little thought has been given by the owner on how people need to have this information presented so it is easy to use.  Examples can include:

  • Links to documents instead of content on an intranet page
  • Poorly worded content that doesn’t make sense
  • Poorly constructed content that is hard to follow
  • Poorly presented content with the wrong balance of images, text, and video

I wonder how many intranet professionals are nodding their heads as they recognise some of these examples being on their own intranets!  Yes, it is irritating and creates a poor user experience.

So, how can you make your intranet look neat and tidy?  I recommend you consider these:

  • Usability standard that sets out what the user experience should be
  • Feedback button so people can report back on bad examples
  • Document library for content that has to be shown in its original format (legal document)
  • Training for publishers on tone of voice
  • Training for publishers on how to ‘write for the web’
  • Guidance on use of different media with best practice examples
  • Audit content and encourage/persuade/force publishers to publish it following best practice

And you can always contact me if you need more help and advice.

How to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 – the user experience

SharePoint 2010 gives you the opportunity to upgrade your technology to meet the current and future needs of its businesses.   It also enables other changes to improve business effectiveness to be made at the same time.  This helps to justify the cost to the business from investing in SharePoint 2010 and not just keep everything the same as before.  There are many features that SharePoint 2010 offers which will help maximise the benefits.

Your business must aim to give users of your intranet a much improved experience from day 1 with continuing improvements made at regular stages afterwards as part of an ongoing intranet strategy.  Here is part 1 of my tips to get your business ready to use SharePoint 2010:

User experience

  • ‘Mega menu’ at the top of every intranet page with functional titles that can expand to show the most popular and/or important content as a shortcut.
  • Site menu on the left hand side of every page in the site to navigation menu of the site’s contents.
  • Breadcrumb trail below the mega menu on every page to help people navigate easily back to a previous page on their journey.
  • Title of each page to show in the header and footer of every page.
  • Homepage and any other key intranet sites to have common principles of navigation, functionality, and look and feel with the option of having distinct branding.  The type of content and its position can vary for each homepage.
  • Content pages to have an owner, review and last updated date shown consistently at the bottom of each page.  The owner can link to their My Profile for contact details.
  • Content sections will clearly show what they contain.  People will be able to collapse sections within the main page or expand them to show all the links and content within them.  Some sections can be forced to stay open; other sections can have the option to add more links and content if people choose.
  • My Profile will provide information about an individual to help people searching for someone realise this is the right person to help them. The details can include contact details, location, manager and place in the business’ hierarchy, whereabouts and relevant information, experience and interests.

In my next post I will cover how to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 – the publisher experience.

Standards that make SharePoint 2010 a success

When you are faced with implementing SharePoint 2010 your intranet needs the right standards to make the launch and ongoing use a great success.

How can you do this?  Firstly you need to be clear why you have standards.  The reasons why usually include:

  • Legal: web accessibility, copyright and image rights
  • Regulatory: compliance with country and international agreements
  • Business: content reviewed regularly and up to date
  • Users: content ownership clear, easy to use and find

Your intranet standards need to:

When using SharePoint 2010 I recommend five standards you must include.  These cover the different types of content and tools that you can use with SharePoint 2010 ranging from accredited information through to collaborative discussions.

1. Ownership

You need to be clear that all your information is managed and has an owner.  Intranet managers need to be able to contact an owner if there is a problem with their content quickly and easily.  People need to know who to contact if they need more information not shown or wish to check about anything that has been published.  You need to reassure your senior managers that any risk has been removed of non-compliance from information not managed.

2. Currency

Your employees must be confident they are using the most up to date information.  You need to clearly show a review date, in line with your information retention policy, for people to see.  Your content must be reviewed regularly and be removed if it is no longer needed and out of date.

3. Security

SharePoint 2010 permissions need to be correctly set so people only see the information they have permission to see.  Get these right at an organisation-wide level to save time and effort later.  Owners (site administrators) of content can decide at a site level who can have permission to create, edit, as well as view content published.

4. Usability

Your information must be usable and valuable to people using it.  Use SharePoint 2010 webparts to create the experience research with people has shown is needed.  Train your publishers on ‘tone of voice’ and ‘writing for the web’ to help achieve this.  To use the full range of SharePoint 2010 features well you must make it easy for people to share views, discover other people and their skills, find the right information and use what they find with the minimum of effort and time taken.

5. Accessibility

This is not an optional extra.  It is mandatory.  You need to go that extra step beyond usable content and make sure your content is accessible to everyone whether they are impaired or not.  It needs to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  Legal requirements do vary from country to country.  For the UK AA level is the current expert recommendation.

What you need to do is check standards are complied with.  This can be achieved by using people or outside auditors to check content or better still, if you can afford it, an automated compliance checker tool.

Publishing great content on BT’s intranet

When I posted about the latest results for BT ‘BT Intranet 2010 benchmark results‘ I promised to give examples the Intranet Benchmarking Forum highlighted as global best practice. 

The first example is about our content.  IBF said all pages across BT’s intranet contain author and date information.  The content is well structured in headline style, with bullets and sub-headings.  BT’s intranet is largely jargon-free and scored well in Flesch comprehension testing, but could be further improved by ensuring all acronyms have explanatory title tags.

We have achieved this by embedding our intranet standards in to the templates used for publishing the different types of content

This means publishers can concentrate on the quality of the information and not their technical abilities.

For users there is a consistent experience as they move transparently from one type of content to another.  For example the BT global navigation bar appears in the same place with the same headings that link to the same place on every page.

We encourage with guidance and training for our publishers to use the right tone of voice and wherever possible to avoid jargon.

It helps to show why 4 out of 5 BT Intranet users are very/satisfied when last surveyed.

2010 BT Intranet user research update

I recently posted about the latest user satisfaction with BT’s intranet but forgot to mention one key area which really troubles me.  Self service applications.

You will know my concerns on their usability and the problems trying to improve it.  Well, the research confirmed all of these and showed me how much users are prepared to put up with because they have no choice.

But it is the huge loss of productivity because of the time taken completing tasks, asking helpdesks, colleagues or searching for online guidance or having to be trained to do these tasks which is my aim too.

I am working with my IT partners in BT and with our suppliers of self service applications like Oracle to improve the ‘out of the box’ usability.

This will take time but it is tackling the problem at the root source so should ultimately bring many benefits to BT and other customers of these applications.