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Previous Posts

5 questions that lead to a better intranet

Monday, November 29, 2004  

Consider your intranet from a user's perspective with these five questions:

Can I find it? The intranet must be easy to find.
If your users never get to the first page of your intranet, everything else is irrelevant. To make sure they do:
  • Set the intranet as the home page of every employee's web browser
  • Consider an integrated intranet toolbar
  • Make a tour of the intranet part of the new hire orientation process
  • Ensure access to all online systems is via the intranet
Does it work? The intranet must be fast, reliable and available.
Nothing saps confidence in the intranet like slow response times or, even worse, downtime. To prevent this:
  • Use an expert architect to configure your server
  • Monitor your server's consumption of bandwidth, memory, and disk space
  • Every few minutes, test the intranet's availability using an automated script running on a separate server or by using a monitoring service.
  • Have a backup server that can be up and running within a few minutes
  • Run disaster recovery simulations to make sure you can handle an unexpected problem
Is it easy to use? The intranet must be easy to use, read and navigate.
Your goal is to eliminate question marks. Everything should be completely obvious. Follow these tips: Does it make me feel confident? Good looking sites inspire confidence.
Attractive intranets are attributed expertise and trustworthiness. Why? It could be the "halo effect": according to a 1972 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, good looking children are viewed as being less naughty than their less attractive peers for the same behaviors. Same with your intranet. To make it pretty: Does it meet my needs? Your intranet's objectives must align with user goals.
This is the most important question--see last week's article for more details. To meet users' needs:
  • Figure out who your users are
  • Find out their goals
  • Help them achieve those goals
Users unconsciously ask and answer these questions within seconds upon visiting your intranet. If they answer no to any question, they won't be back. Make sure they answer yes. Seriously consider the steps you've taken to ensure users have a positive experience with your intranet.

About the Author

I'm Chris McGrath, an intranet consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I've been working on intranets since 1997, and on plain ol' web sites for even longer. I run One Intranets, the firm that co-created ThoughtFarmer -- an enterprise collaboration platform for Windows-based intranets.