my world of work and user experiences

March 31, 2009

Less is more

Filed under: Usability — Tags: , — admin @ 23:17

Recently I have read several news articles about websites that are too large.

Several Dutch IT magazines (e.g. Webwereld) boasted headlines that the Dutch government should stop trying to create large portals, because citizens get lost in them and swamp the government agencies with even more phone calls. The (Dutch)  press release about the research they quote, performed by Willem Pieterson at the Center for e-Government Studies, presents somewhat different conclusions. He studied the service channels that citizens chose; he found that citizens do not make that choice rationally. So government sites and the communication campaigns to promote them need to take the emotions and habits of the citizens into account

Gerry McGovern tells in this New Thinking article that Microsoft weeded a lot of irrelevant content from their site, because it was smothering the quality content that people are actually looking for. “It is estimated that the website has about 10 million pages and that some 3 million of them have never been visited.” So they determined what were the top tasks that the users were trying to perform and made those prominent.

I don’t think that you can blindly equal Large = Bad. However, the larger the site, the larger the strain on the information architecture and the search functionality, and the harder it is for users to find what they need amongst all the content that they don’t need.
The main thing is to know what most users aim to do on the site and make sure that you offer these features and this information prominently in the navigation and in the search result. Content that is only relevant to few users, in few situations can be pushed into the “basement” of the site; allow users with unusual questions to explicitly rummage in that basement.

So less is more. But user-centered design is even more, especially in combination with user-centered content management.

March 26, 2009

The best intranets of 2009 according to the Nielsen Norman Group

Filed under: Usability — Tags: — admin @ 22:09

Recently I’ve been flipping through the Nielsen Norman Group’s Intranet Design Annual 2009 – The Year’s 10 Best Intranets (see Nielsen’s alertbox about it). A couple of things that caught my attention 

  1. SharePoint (especially MOSS) scores well. One of the intranets even looks really standard MOSS, with hardly any additional styling.
    “fully half of the winning intranets used SharePoint, especially the recent MOSS platform (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007).[…] SharePoint use has grown dramatically in recent years. This is particularly impressive given that, from 2003–2006, the winning intranets didn’t use earlier versions of SharePoint at all.”
    That is interesting news, given the fact that I use SharePoint for intranets on a daily basis and I focus on usability a lot.
  2. The concept of intranet has matured quite nicely.
    • An intranet not is not just the phone list online (the equivalent of the leaflet online for websites) that we publish because it is fun. Intranets have all kinds of functionality.
    • The winning companies have serious intranet teams, that repport to high level management, because they realise that the intranet istrategically important.
      “This year does show dramatically increased executive visibility for the intranet in many of the winning organizations. This executive involvement typically results from companies viewing the intranet as a collaboration tool and appreciating the increased business efficiency that a good intranet brings”.
    • The development teams take usability into account. They use various methods, like paper prototyping.
    • Personalisation is getting more  sophisticated. The most basic form is personalised news, but we also see personalised work-relatted content and applications.
      “If intranets show everyone everything, information overload ensues and people either ignore the news area or squander their time reading irrelevant stories”.
  3. This year, every winning intranet has some social networking functionality, like (CEO) blogs, forums, wikis, video and user profiles. Not only because it is cool, but because it can help them share knowledge.
    “Social networking and the intranet: A marriage made in e-heaven”
    “Although likely inspired by the open Internet’s “Web 2.0″ sites, these features often have a much stronger business model within the enterprise, simply because they’re more useful and less subject to noise and information pollution by bozos”.
  4. Any self respecting intranet supports collaboration. Many of the winners use SharePoint functionality for that purpose.
    “According to [spokesperson], a key aim of the intranet is collaboration. “It [the site] is a tool that has been developed to network people within the company and better equip them to do their jobs, manage projects, and deliver the best possible service to our clients.”

February 18, 2009

Going public

Filed under: New world of work — admin @ 00:15

Why did I start this blog?

For the past five years, I have been blogging within the intranet of Macaw, the company that I work for. I enjoy sharing ideas with my colleagues in our blogs. But I cannot share stuff that is behind the Macaw firewall with “outsiders”.

On the internet, I am an enthousiastic Flickr user. I like to share my photos, get feedback, find inspiring images and discuss interesting photos that others have taken – not just my current friends, but also complete strangers. That can result in unexpected insights, from unexpected people.

And I appreciate others blogging on the internet. When I search for specific information, I often find the answer in a blog. It is not fair to just read, without contributing as well, is it?

So what was lacking was a place where I can develop ideas outside the company context and share them with other people. That problem is easily remedied nowadays.

Hence this blog.

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