Tag Archives: usability

Valuing information tip 4: finding it more easily

In this series of posts ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you with tips and advice.  So far I have covered owning content, accredited content and collaborative content.  I now want to cover findability of your content.

By findability I mean how you can make it easier for people to find the information you publish and manage.  Making that difference will show that your content is more valued by anyone finding it.

Headings

Think about the title of your content.  What words or phrases will people be searching for? For your content to be high in the search results you need your title to be clear and meaningful to your intended audience.  Any tags or metadata you add should help people understand your content when they find it.  The aim is to help people find your content more easily and not need extra time and effort to do this.  The sad truth is people rarely do this.

For example the title ‘Is SharePoint good or bad?‘ is clearer compared with ‘Is some Microsoft technology better or worse than average when compared with other publishing tools?’.

jargon

Avoid using jargon such as abbreviations or abridged versions of a word.  Always use the terms most people are familiar with and will recognise when they are searching for your content.

For example when I used to work in BT (a technology company) the term ‘broadband’ was also known as ‘DSL’ by technical people or ‘BT Infinity’ and other product names by Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service people.  Broadband was the common term that was recognised by everyone with other terms associated with it rather than used instead of it.

keywords

Think about the keywords you will be using which best cover the content you will publish.  Use these keywords in your content to help your search engine pick up on them (search engine optimisation – SEO).  The keywords should also be used most frequently by people to find your content.  The more frequently you use a standard term rather than variations of that term, the more likely your content will be ranked higher in the search results.

For example if instead of using the term ‘intranet’ you also used variations such as online environment, content management, accredited content, digital workplace, or inside the firewall, it will not have the same impact or findability (It will also be very confusing and possibly inaccurate too but you get the point I am making!).

So, using these tips helps people to find your content and by doing this add to its value because of the extra thought and effort you have made when publishing it.

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. :)

 

Intranet governance first – intranet launch next

I have seen many intranets over the years.  One thing that always makes me sad is when I see a new intranet launched with a great design, clear structure, interesting content……but no or poor governance.

It is sad to see all the time, effort, and money slowly being wasted away as the effects of little or no governance inevitably start to take effect with more and more problems appearing as the weeks go by.

What governance problems?  Where do they appear?  What is their impact?  Well, I’m thinking about these examples:

No owner

There is content published everywhere but no one to contact if you want to find out more or query anything that you have read.  You spend lots of wasted time trying other people and ways to find out who is the right person to speak to.

No review date

You are not sure if the information is still up to date.  It may be a policy, a news article, or a guide to help with a work activity.  You don’t know if it is the current version and no one else seems to know either so again, you waste time trying to check if it can be relied upon.

review date is out of date

Even worse than having no review date can be finding it has been passed and the information is available but could be out of date.  You waste time checking it is still reliable and wonder why it hasn’t been updated or removed.  Maybe your confidence in the integrity of other content drops and you waste more time checking or use other sources?

No last updated INFO

It helps reassure people that a site is active and give them confidence the content is reliable and up to date if a last updated date is shown at the bottom of each page of content whenever it is edited.

feedback

It saves time if you have a standard feature for feedback in the same place on every page.  It means people can easily ask questions, offer extra information, or clarify its use.  Without it, people waste time trying to look for a feedback box, link, or heading.  If there isn’t then people try to use other ways to find out what they need to know and can get dissatisfied with the intranet.

These are just some of the problems poor or no governance can cause when you launch a new intranet or site.  It is possible to have a good, strong, governance in place for your intranet launch for no extra cost or time taken.

To find out how to do this the smart way please contact me.

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.

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.

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.

Are your intranet standards ‘smart’?

I have reviewed many intranets and have been amazed at the variety of publishing standards and how they are enforced.  These vary from no publishing standards through to everything being locked down depending on the importance of complying with standards.  More importantly it is the amount of time, effort, and money that is used to enforce people to comply with the standards when they publish information.

I sometimes think organisations lose the plot and forget to look at the costs being spent for the  benefit being gained.

Your intranet needs standards to make sure your organisation complies with business, user, regulatory, and legal requirements in any country it operates in.  The best approach is to have ‘smart’ standards that need the minimum time, effort, and cost which achieving the maximum effectiveness and benefits.  How many of these questions can you answer “yes” to?

  1. Do you train your publishers on what your intranet standards?
  2. Do you also train your publishers on why your intranet has these standards?
  3. Do you educate and support your publishers with guidance to understand more about your standards?
  4. Do you embed any of your standards in the publishing templates e.g. branding, navigation menu?
  5. Do publishers need to comply with your standards before their content is published e.g. images need to have alternative texts before they can be used?
  6. Do you review content for compliance?
  7. Do you remind your publishers if their content is non-compliant?
  8. Do you remove content if no action by your publishers to comply?
  9. Do you measure how compliant your intranet is?
  10. Have you measured it more than once?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions then award yourself a gold medal!

If you answered “no” to any of these questions perhaps you had better contact me?

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.

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?