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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

Killer intranet prototypes in minutes

Tuesday, January 24, 2006  

Scrap the paper prototyping. Un-install Visio. There's a new prototyping tool in town, kids, and it's called Axure.

What’s wrong with paper prototyping?

I raved about paper prototyping a year ago
. But here’s the problem: It’s S-L-O-W. And if you were weaned on computers like me, your hand starts to hurt after holding a pencil for 5 minutes.

What’s wrong with Visio?

Visio was designed to build technical and process diagrams, not web sites. It doesn’t support pages that scroll. And although it can do a web export, you can’t interact with the forms it creates, making usability testing very difficult.

What’s so great about Axure?

Like Visio, you can drag-and-drop widgets and link pages. It supports templates and styles so you can make global changes quickly. But unlike Visio, it generates stellar HTML prototypes (here’s a sample I created to accompany this newsletter). It also lets you annotate all page elements in detail, and you can generate a complete specifications document in Word format with a single keystroke.

Axure RP 3
costs $589US [3]. Version 4 is currently in beta, and it adds zooming, AJAX-prototyping, and other enhancements to Version 3. If you’re in the business of building intranet applications, a strong web prototyping tool is one of the best investments you can make.

Top 10 must-read articles for intranet design in 2006

Tuesday, January 10, 2006  

Are you responsible for an intranet realignment in 2006? Here are the 10 articles that will most shape my thinking on intranets this year:

10. Low Literacy Users: Designing for low literacy users improves usability for everyone. Make important things big, avoid moving text, and streamline page design.

9. Navigation Blindness: How to deal with the fact that people tend to ignore navigation tools.

8. Exploring With Wiki: From 2003, but I didn't read it till 2005. An interview with Ward Cunningham on the goals, strengths and weaknesses of wikis.

7. Wikis and Blogs and Email, Oh My! An interview with JotSpot founder Joe Kraus. Do-it-yourself content: When systems stop asking for permission, participation increases.

6. Customer Experience In 4 Steps: Listen to the stakeholders, listen to the users, synthesize the two inputs, and suggest improvements.

5. Less as a Competitive Advantage: Five things you need less of that you're likely to think you need more of: Less money, less people, less time, less software...

4. Web Design & Development Trends For 2006: Predictions include big fonts, round corners, and the death of IE5.

3. Wikis Make Collaboration Easier: Content management is likely to hybridize with the wiki into a new, more robust application that combines the strengths of both tools

2. The Future of Knowledge Management and Collaboration: Why first generation knowledge management failed, and 23 human information behaviours that KM software has to accommodate

1. More Users = Simpler CMS: The more users that will be accessing the CMS, the simpler (and more usable) the system has to be.

Pearls of Wisdom

Tuesday, January 03, 2006  

From the article "My Golden Rule" in December's Business 2.0:
"The next big thing is whatever makes the last big thing usable." – Blake Ross, co-creator, Firefox
"Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail." – Eliot Spitzer, New York state attorney general

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.