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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

Democratic, collaborative intranets: Dramatically better

Wednesday, March 16, 2005  

One of my clients is about to embark on an exciting journey: they're launching a democratic, collaborative intranet. What does that mean? It means not only can everyone read a page, but they can write it. That small change creates a dramatically different intranet, where everyone in the organization can now fix problems, add ideas, and collaborate. Consider some of the benefits of an open intranet:

1. It stays current
With the entire company able to post content, the intranet becomes the best source of information on what's going on.

2. It's self-healing
If any user sees an error, he or she can fix it immediately.

3. It creates a high level of engagement among users
Because they control the content, employees feel a sense of ownership over the intranet.

4. It reduces staffing requirements
Your users are your editors. Content maintenance doesn't require a dedicated team.

5. It promotes collaboration
There are no barriers to communication on a democratic intranet. Have an idea? Share it.

6. It enables information to flow freely
An abundance of information creates an environment where breakthrough ideas emerge.

Democratic, collaborative intranets are a dramatic improvement over traditional, top-down, one-to-many intranets. They can be the catalyst that transforms the way your company manages and disseminates its knowledge.

Democratic, collaborative intranets: Dramatically better

One of my clients is about to embark on an exciting journey: they're launching a democratic, collaborative intranet. What does that mean? It means not only can everyone read a page, but they can write it. That small change creates a dramatically different intranet, where everyone in the organization can now fix problems, add ideas, and collaborate. Consider some of the benefits of an open intranet:

1. It stays current
With the entire company able to post content, the intranet becomes the best source of information on what's going on.

2. It's self-healing
If any user sees an error, he or she can fix it immediately.

3. It creates a high level of engagement among users
Because they control the content, employees feel a sense of ownership over the intranet.

4. It reduces staffing requirements
Your users are your editors. Content maintenance doesn't require a dedicated team.

5. It promotes collaboration
There are no barriers to communication on a democratic intranet. Have an idea? Share it.

6. It enables information to flow freely
An abundance of information creates an environment where breakthrough ideas emerge.

Democratic, collaborative intranets are a dramatic improvement over traditional, top-down, one-to-many intranets. They can be the catalyst that transforms the way your company manages and disseminates its knowledge.

Design intranet navigation with card sorting

Wednesday, March 02, 2005  

To design intranet navigation, find out users' mental model of potential content by running card sorting tests. Does an expense report form belong under HR? Finance? or a forms category? You'll only know the right answer after card sorting. Here's how:

  • Make an index card for every piece of content. Limit it to 100 cards.
  • Run 4 or 5 sessions with 3 or 4 users each.
  • Ask them to group the cards in piles of related content. Piles can be as small or large as they want. If they want, they can also group the groups.
  • When they're done, review each group for anomalies. Then ask them to suggest a label for each group.
  • Collate the results to inform your navigation design.

Combine card sorting with your knowledge of business objectives, user goals and usability best practices to design intuitive navigation for your intranet. Make sure to test your final navigation design with a paper prototyping session.


Other resources:

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.