4 ways to improve findability on your intranet

If the information in your intranet is not easy to find, then staff can get frustrated.

In fact, I’ve heard stories from employees who say that when they want to find out about the company they are working for, the use Google.


Case in point – I was at an appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country. I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked

While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”.

She followed my instructions and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

Why did she use Google?

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want.

I do want to talk, however, about the reason that people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability.

the reason that people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability.

How is Google able to achieve this?

  1. Google makes use of a lot of computers (estimated,in 2011, at 900,000).
  2. This means a lot of processing power to be able to crawl publically accessible websites on the internet, sift through what is found, and categorise it in a way that is useful.
  3. The search actions of  billions of people, including the questions they are asking, is being analysed. This data is used to be able to be able to return the most relevant information.
  4. Google has thousands of people working for it that are dedicated to making sure that this information is available.

How can you improve findability?

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and then getting results.

It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to what they are looking for quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented.

To improve the findability of the information in your company, consider the following:

  1. What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information.Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  2. What information do the users (from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought-out surveyscan return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  3. How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up an understanding ofhow the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for users to find what they are looking for.
  4. Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”,
    “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.

What else?

These were 4 things that need to be done to help improve findability. If you know of any other things that can be done, let me know.

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Want to learn more?

I’ve selected a few books that I feel are relevant to what was covered in this blog post, and will provide more in-depth information. (Important Disclosure).

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Predicting User Acceptance

I‘ve been asked to help a friend with the design of a portal. Not just any type of portal, but one that will provide an alternative to using the standard “thick client”.

So, I started thinking about what I can do to really “sell” the portal to the users. What will make them WANT to use it, instead of the client that they are already familiar with.

During my studies for the AIIM course (mentioned in earlier posts), I read about the TAM.

The TAM is short for “Technology Acceptance Model“, and is a model that proposes that application usage and adoption can be predicted based upon two factors. Here is what the basic TAM looks like:

TAM User acceptance Technology Acceptance Model Percieved Usefulness Ease

So let’s look at it closer:

Perceived Usefulness can be defined as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance“.

Perceived Ease of Use as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort“.

These, together, influence the attitude of a user to a system, which in turn determines behavioral intentions and leads to actual system use.

So – what did I think of this when I first saw it? I thought “Duh!! That’s obvious.”

But then,as I though about it more, I realized that it IS obvious – if a user thinks something is going to make their job easier, AND they think that it will be effortless (not having to learn a new system, etc), then, of course, they are more willing to use it.

Now, the title of this post is “Predicting User Acceptance”. Because this is a model, lots of different values can be matched to each of the parts of the model, so that the outcome gives a mathematical value for the user acceptance.  That’s definitely gives something measurable. There are, in fact, a couple of documented examples where the TAM has been used to predict intranet/portal usage. I want to go into these in a future post.

Till then, the simplicity of the TAM has helped crystallize, for me, the real essence of user acceptance:

  • “Will this make my job/life easier?”
  • “Does it require effort to use?”

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