Monday, May 22, 2006

What is good intranet content?

Yep more of the same 'content is important' carry on. You know you love it.

Three principles of intranet content

Accessible

  • Your users can actually read content without squinting or getting OOS (occupational overuse syndrome).
  • There is good colour contrast of fonts with background colours.
  • Fonts are resizable and sans-serif.
  • Content can be found through well labeled navigation or search.
  • Location within the IA is logical and user focused.

Usable

  • Content is broken down logically from general to specific. Summary first, detail later Content follows 'information triangle' or inverted pyramid models.
  • Content has good use of headings, bullet points and tables to break up content in readable chunks.
  • In-page navigation is easily and logically displayed and links match subheadings.
  • Consistent naming, spelling and grammatical conventions are used.
  • Page is not overloaded with irrelevant fluff or gratuitous use of images.
  • Further information/ page contact is easily found. Don't leave users hanging.
  • Plain English is followed and little content owner jargon is used.

Useful

  • Is it actually the information your users want and need for their job or is it the information you or your manager want them to read?
  • If you don't talk to your users much there's a good chance that you aren't meeting their needs and are wasting their and your own time. Generally there is no excuse in this area as your users are your colleagues.
  • Talk to your users to find out what they actually need from you and what they currently use. You'll probably be surprised.
  • Content is not rehashing or competing with other pages on the intranet.
  • An overall organisational viewpoint is considered when publishing content. How does thgis affect other parts of the business or organisation decisions? Users do use the intranet as a source of record so makes sure messages are consistent.
  • Get rid of old crappy content. Get the cricket bat out swinging for the 'some may want to use it in the future so let's just stick it up somewhere' position.

'Stickability' for intranets is a load of rubbish

One dangerous idea I have seen expressed at intranet conferences is the idea of making your content 'sticky' i.e. creating content that makes your users stay around (or waste time) on a page.

This type of web carry over is one of the reasons why intranet and websites need to be considered and managed separately. For more differences, James Robertson has written, what I consider a seminal article, on the differences between intranets and websites.

Your intranet sucks up users time either positively or negatively.
Most users are frustrated with intranets regardless of how well designed or implemented they are and many dread going into the intranet as they feel direct time wastage.

Your company pays users money to do a job. More time spent on a 'sticky' page = less time spent doing their jobs = less work for your company = less value of the intranet.

You should aim that your users to go to a page find the information they want and then leave.

Making pages 'sticky' with irrelevant material does little to help you achieve your goals as an intranet (i.e value to the organisation) and does little to support the users themselves. There are some areas for less work focused content such as news/ social community areas but content approaches to these areas should not encroach on your key operational and informational content.

Aim for less time per page not more

In an intranet I previously worked on I managed to achieve a 40% increase in page views over a period of months based on some content reworking and restructuring based on the above three principles (accessible, usable and useful)..

While pages views were well up there was another interesting stat, time spent per page, which decreased over the same period and went on doing so. Why? Users were quickly able to get the idea of the page navigate to the area they needed and then leave rather than hunt through miles of unneeded content to find what they want.

As with all stats be careful... as you may be getting the flip side that there's nothing of value on the page thus users leave. So the stats need to be looked at in context of changes you make and obviously user feedback and analysis also adds to the value you get out of web stats.

Stop carrying over old 'web marketing hack ideas' and start considering intranets as the key organisational work and communication tools they should and need to be.

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7 Comments:

At 10:09 pm, Anonymous James Robertson said...

Great list! I really comes down to the three key things you identify:

* Can it be found?

* Can it be understood?

* Can it be put into use?

Keep up the good work,
James

 
At 5:48 am, Anonymous Rick said...

Good stuff. I would also add a "newness" or "updated" factor.... that is, how old is the content.

If the content never changes, why would I want to waste my time?

 
At 11:22 pm, Anonymous Yev Webber said...

Good article. Thanks

 
At 10:29 pm, Anonymous Josef Baros said...

Good article, but a bit too much theory.

Few month ago I have started to build web site with description of some intranet application which proved to be wery useful. You can see some screenshots there, text are not translated into english, sorry.

I hope, that my site can help you to find the answer for the question above.

 
At 2:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great site lots of usefull infomation here.
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At 9:00 pm, Blogger Theone3 said...

You've been dugg!
http://www.digg.com/design/Good_Intranet_Content

 
At 1:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting website with a lot of resources and detailed explanations.
»

 

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