KMW2006 – User Experience: Lessons Learned

Carmine Porco from Prescient Digital Media (whose company hosts the Intranet Blog) shared some case studies of Intranet redesigns with us. I want to preface this for the librarian readers that a lot of his suggestions apply more to big companies than little libraries – and I also think a lot of his suggestions apply more to our public sites than our Intranets, so think of his suggestions in that context.

Carmine started with a bad practice from August of this year. Radio Shack used email to fire 400 employees!! This was an example of bad use of technology within your organization.

Now into the meat!

#1 it’s not enough to be cool when designing your intranet (or website) – it needs to deliver value and if you can’t prove that to your higher-ups than the intranet is going fail. Keep in mind that success & value is more than money! Value is employee satisfaction, awareness and retention.

Carmine gave us an interesting example of a survey given to IBM regarding where they go first to find office information. In 1997 the number one answer was Co-Worker with 57% of the vote followed by 54% Manager and 28% Intranet. In 2003 that same survey got a much different result – Intranet was #1 with 71% followed by Co-Worker with 37% and Manager with 31%.

Next Carmine calls for a business plan before re-redesigning and intranet – this is where I think things get a bit too in-depth for a library intranet. But it does make sense that you have some sort of plan or report before designing any webpage. In my case I took the library’s strategic plan into consideration when making design and structure changes to our intranet. He also mentioned ROI (Return on Investment) – not something librarians worry about when it comes to an intranet. He gave us some interesting numbers – like the fact that an email box costs $20 a person in storage – so why not put the document you want to share on the intranet (in one place) and stop sending emails?! I’m all for that!

Like I said before, without executive support things will fall apart – so make sure your managers/directors/board (whoever) is behind you and is out there making the employees aware of the changes that are to come. This tip applies to all organizations – large and small – and really fits more with the intranet re-design project more than a public site re-design.

Carmine calls for governance – a hierarchy of people in charge of the intranet – this is probably not possible in small organizations – but if your intranet is also small it might be a good idea to think about this. In the model that Carmine showed us he had an Execututive at the top (director/manager), next a Council of people who will make decisions on behalf of the staff, then an Editor – Carmine notes (and I agree) that your webmaster should not be your editor – IT people are not trained to write content and they should not be writing the content for your organization.

Once you have a governance structure in place it’s time to do a content audit. This means going through the data on the old intranet and weeding out the junk. I can tell you from experience that this takes time and needs more than one person involved. In my case I needed to contact each department head and ask them to go through their documents – how am I supposed to know what’s important?

Now that your content is ready create a wire design – this is a design without the bells and whistles that shows the users where the content will lie on the page – this way they can move things where they think make sense and all of your hard work isn’t down the drain. The design is the final step – as Carmine says it’s the lipstick! When it does come time to provide designs – only due 2 designs and make the users pick from the 2 – otherwise you’ll end up with way more work than is necessary. Carmine said “Design by committee will kill a project!” – can you disagree? I can’t.

Lastly, think about personalization before you go all out with detailed sessions and databases to store settings. Will users really use it? Do the staff in your office change their default Windows settings? If not they’re probably not going to customize the intranet. Carmine shows some examples of customization that don’t involve the user. When the user logs in they see a weather box specific to their location (this works for big organizations spread out across many areas).

Overall, a very interesting session (and my first here at KMWorld & Intranets) – I’m going to poach some of these ideas for our website redesign and a couple sound pretty handy for our intranet as well!

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