The secret to defining an IA that gets results
It’s 6.45pm on a Friday and sales executive Glenn is working late. It’s his third week in the role, and he wants to knock over a client proposal before he heads to the coast for the weekend.
Glenn has written plenty of proposals in his time, but this is the first at his new company. Unfortunately, things are progressing much slower than he had anticipated.
He browses the intranet for previous proposals, branding templates and other reusable information, but there’s no obvious filing structure. He can’t tell which information is up to date, or which templates are consistent with current branding.
After a fruitless search, Glenn gives up. The sales team warned him to not bother with the intranet, and now he understands why. He decides it’s more efficient to start his proposal from scratch.
Glenn’s story is common. Poor information architecture – the design of information systems – is one of the top reasons why intranets fail. Is this you?
In this four-part series, we’ll examine the most critical factors for making your intranet successful. Whether you’re building an intranet from scratch or making changes to an existing system, this series will provide handy tips for getting the results you need.
First up, here’s how to structure your information architecture so your intranet delivers the results you need.
Why strong information architecture is a smart idea
Strong information architecture promotes opportunities for collaborating and co-authoring. It acts as a framework for exactly where information should be saved, and makes it easy for users to locate. This means employees can work faster and more efficiently.
Investing the time to develop strong information architecture can pay off by increasing user adoption. After all, people are much more likely to use intranets that are easy to navigate, search and edit.
How to build an information architecture that works
Developing an effective information architecture takes time. Here are three steps that can help you get started.
- Understand how intranet users currently find information
This will give you useful feedback about issues users might have with the present system. You can then make sure the new solution addresses these problems.
Before you start to work on your intranet solution, be sure you have identified responses to the points below.
- Which user groups will be most affected by a change to the current solution?
- Which groups are happily using the current solution?
- Which groups are unlikely to be affected by the change?
- What document or content management solutions are currently in use?
- What issues do users have with the current solution?
- What legacy systems influence the way users work with data?
The answers to the pain points above will help you work towards a more efficient new system that is more likely to meet user needs.
- Ask users for input
Workshops are a great way of getting feedback from users about the way they work with the intranet.
Try these tips to get the most benefit from a feedback workshop:
- Encourage users to think about how they work with information, and the pain points of the current setup, before the workshops.
- Develop audit worksheets and questionnaires to help people consider which aspects of the current system work well for them, and which could be improved.
- Evaluate the results to identify where double handling or duplication of information is happening across the organisation.
Check out our online assessment tool to share with your organisation. This tool will help evaluate the use of your existing tools as well as get a better understanding of how you work and what you need to work more efficiently.
The answers you receive from this survey will help you understand the biggest areas of frustration you and your colleagues have and the areas of highest priority for them.
- Meet a variety of expectations
Aim to provide users with several options for navigation and searching, to accommodate the different ways in which people work with information. This might include:
- Building in different ways for users to find information through multiple mechanisms including mega menus, footer navigation, and contextual site or audience-targeted navigation
- Focusing the structure of the information architecture around seven key terms, because that’s the number that the human brain can remember easily
- Request that groups of unrelated people from within the organisation test and quantify the structures generated within the business using card sorting activities
- Aim to make all content accessible within three mouse clicks
- Providing a common language of keywords for tagging or saving documents to make those processes more relevant and meaningful
Getting adoption right
Once you have defined, documented and agreed on your new information architecture, it’s time to think about the adoption phase.
You can help this stage run smoothly by using the strategies below.
- Promote the positives of the new system
- Focus on improved functionality
- Make changes to an existing system in phases so that users don’t feel overwhelmed
- Get the base structure right first.
See how Tax Institute have promoted their Intranet ahead of their launch to ensure a better adoption.
Developing the right information architecture for your intranet takes time and planning. With the right processes, tools and partners, your intranet can deliver broad benefits, support your business strategy, and remain sustainable and relevant in the long term.