Friday, June 23, 2006

Intranet Communications

Toby Ward has published a big post, with some intranet screenshots, Intranet communications: improving HR service and communications, covering what content and services an intranet needs to meet employee requirements.

" Four types of principal communications should be captured
and delivered via the intranet:

Those required by law
- Health safety, regulation, …
HR Related
- Benefits, compensation, career, social, …
Business Related
- News, competitive arena, knowledge-share, …
- Watercooler, coffee break, “grapevine”, ….
- Most common information/knowledge share vehicle "

The last point is key for the continued development of user-focused intranet environments.

If you've been reading some of the key intranet bloggers such as Toby and James Roberston over recent times there's been some good pointers on successful use of these tools for knowledge management and sharing.

I have implemented similar intranet functionality that has worked for some groups but has been ineffective for others. Project teams for example have found it useful. Other groups tend to be wary especially those with little web experience.

The key is not just to provide the technological framework for the knowledge sharing to occur but to provide the employee drivers so they see direct benefits for themselves.

Essentially users need to use to the technology in an emergent way and not be forced to suddenly imput all their tacit knowledge into the various tools.

As I have mentioned before these tools shouldn't be seen as some magic content bullet but need to be used in conjunction with effective and well written content for key organisational information.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Email newsletters

As we all know email newsletters have been around for sometime and despite the growing use of blogs, RSS etc many companies are still using email newsletters as a communication and marketing device, either internally of externally.

I'm personally not a big fan but they can still be used effectively if the content is what the user has opted-in for. Generally I find they work better as providing drivers into web (or intranet) content rather than regurgitating content that is availble elsewhere. Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox is an email newsletter/reminder that works very effectively without the need for HTML.

But from branding point of view it really doesn't do much.

One of the major issues continues to be the inability for email programmes to display HTML (or CSS) in consistent ways. While browser compatibility issues are slowly being resolved the same hasn't happen for email.

Having worked on HTML email newsletters for numerous companies, despite testing and testing for a whole variety of email programs, it has been near impossible to get a consistent display across different programs and environments.

Web development and design site sitepoint has recently published an up-to-date article by Tim Slavin on the current state of email newsletters. it focuses on differences between some programs and what HTML and CSS issues to look out for.

The article also has numerous links to other supporting information.

The key for success, as always, is 'simplicity'.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

UIE - Gerry McGovern interview

UIE have published an interview with content guru Gerry McGovern.

"Being customer focused is not some ‘nice thing to do.’ Customer focus is about hard-edged business. Customers are hugely impatient on the Web. They don’t need to hang around a website that is not directly focused on them. Customer focus is the beginning, middle and end of a successful web strategy."

Replace web with intranet and customer with user and it would equally apply to intranets.
See 'User driven culture' post below.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Managing and Maintaining a Decentralised Intranet - Sydney

The Managing and Maintaining a Decentralised Intranet conference line-up has been finalised.

The event is taking place at the North Sydney Harbourview Hotel on September 13 and 14.,

It features presenters from some great organisations including: Wachovia Bank (US), Vodafone New Zealand, Telstra, KPMG and several Australian local, state and federal government agencies.

James Robertson from Step Two Designs will be running an interactive workshop on intranet growth (looking forward to that) and I'll be presenting on topics related to 'content control and ownership'.

Hope to see you there.

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Establish a user driven culture

Jane McConnell has published a great article on the importance of user logic in developing large site structures.

To add to this user logic should be fundamental in all aspects of web or intranet design, content and management.

One of my ongoing battles is with content 'producers' who fail to see the logic behind writing for users rather than writing something for themselves, or their managers, and that a silo mentality is bad for the site, bad for the organisation, bad for the user and bad for themselves. Just plain bad.

If you aren't focused towards your users then you are failing to reach the full potential of what you are doing.

Sure it can't all be done at once but establishing a 'User driven culture' with those who work on and contribute to your site is important. It can include formalised usability testing and card-sorting exercises or just constant user advocacy in everything you do.

Ask 'will our users understand this" everytime something new is developed or published and continue to educate the organisation in the importance of user focus.

As an organisation's key user advocate you should fight for them. Become the unsung champion of the poor abused user, the 'Che Guevara' of your organisation's online culture. You may not win too many friends within some quarters but your users will appreciate your efforts, acknowledged or not.


Top eight ongoing usability issues

Webmonkey has a new article by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger which highlights eight key issues for web and intranet usability that haven't 'gone away'.

The issues are an excerpt from their new book 'Prioritizing Web Usability'.

The eight are:
  • Links that don't change color when visited
  • Breaking the back button
  • Opening new browser windows
  • Pop-up windows
  • Design elements that look like advertisements
  • Violating Web-wide conventions
  • Vaporous content and empty hype
  • Dense content and unscannable text


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Strategic Intranet & Enterprise Portal Management conference

The line-up and details for the upcoming 'Strategic Intranet & Enterprise Portal Management' conference, in Auckland on August 23 and 24, have been finalised.

Featured are presentations from IBM Australia/NZ and intranet guru James Robertson (who is also running a pre-conference intranet search workshop on the 22nd).

Other presenters come from across several sectors with a few consultants and vendors in there as well.

I will be chairing the event as well as presenting on some ideas around intranet content best practice.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Web Dogma

Liz Danzico at Boxes and Arrows has published an article and interview with Eric Reiss 'Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken' about Eric's 'Web Dogma ‘06' set of ten points for usable websites.

The 'dogma' is based on the ideas of the Eurpoean Dogma filmakers.
While I personally find most of the Dogma films art-cliquey borefests I like these points for the web.

To quote:

Web Dogma ‘06

  1. Anything that exists only to satisfy the internal politics of the site owner
    must be eliminated.
  2. Anything that exists only to satisfy the ego of the designer must be
  3. Anything that is irrelevant within the context of the page must be
  4. Any feature or technique that reduces the visitor’s ability to navigate
    freely must be reworked or eliminated.
  5. Any interactive object that forces the visitor to guess its meaning must be
    reworked or eliminated.
  6. No software, apart from the browser itself, must be required to get the site
    to work correctly.
  7. Content must be readable first, printable second, downloadable third.
  8. Usability must never be sacrificed for the sake of a style guide.
  9. No visitor must be forced to register or surrender personal data unless the
    site owner is unable to provide a service or complete a transaction without it.
  10. Break any of these rules sooner than do anything outright barbarous.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Intranet ownership

Just a bit of a follow on from the previous Intranet politics post.

James Robertson has written a post on IT ownership of the intranet. It is a great read and comes down to that it doesn't really matter where ownership sits as long as the intranet is being looked after as a whole.

In my experience most IT departments simply do not have the organisational-wide viewpoint or content management skills (in terms of content rather than CMS implementation) or dedication to simplicity (over-engineering is rife among IT folk) and end users to really manage intranets at the top level. Of course they should be directing technology and code development but I think that dedicated intranet mangers should be more closely aligned with an organisation's Communications team rather than sit in IT.

But this all really depends on the organisation. Some intranet teams sit away from both Communications and IT (probably best compromise if the org structure will alllow for it).

It is also important that the intranet isn't being dictated by an external web focused team.
It needs to be managed independently from the external site but utlising common expertise.