Optimize your content on the intranet
16 September 2016

Optimize your content on the intranet

Are you responsible for an intranet or a digital workplace? Do you have problems with people not finding the right information? Or does your business get a lot of questions about content that is actually available on the intranet? Here are four tips on how you can go about to improve.

Good content and structure saves time and thus money. Navigation and headlines that are well thought out can decrease the time it takes for your users to search and understand the content. Time saved can then be used for more productive work.

Let´s say that you for each user can decrease 10 minutes per year to search and understand the information on your intranet or digital workplace. If you have a small organization e.g. 65 users, you can save an entire working day per year. If you have a larger organization of 1000 users, it sums up to a whole month of working hours saved.

Plus, you get more satisfied users when they perceive the intranet as effective and useful. Benefits that may be difficult to measure as return of investment, but is still important for the valuation of the intranet as a tool.

So, with good structure, priorities and formulations, you can shorten the time it takes for users to go from question to answer. The question is how to get there? Here are four steps you can follow.

1. Naming and structuring the pages by which problems they solve

As a user, we come to the intranet to find answers to a question or obtain guidance on a matter – we have a task or a problem we are trying to solve.

If you ask users it will often be information they are looking for, like “recruitment”, “…my employment”, “news”, “routines …”, “our products”, and similar. To enable navigating to the right page it makes sense to plan the pages structure, naming and navigation based on what problem they should solve. It may sound obvious, but unfortunately this is often not the case on company intranets.

All too often the navigation is instead structured on the basis of the sender, ie “HR”, “Economy” or “Department X”, or based on the type of information like “Governing Documents” or “Market Database”. The user must then know the sender or source information, and usually they do not. Then the user spend their own or a colleagues time to figure it out. A waste of time.

Instead you should be planning on the basis of problems to be solved. The structure then tends to become more grouped by tasks – for example, “Service”, “Employment”, “Responsibilities”, “Products” or similar. The pages in the grouping will also focus on different types of cases – such as “Leave” (compared to “Absence”) where the user thought “take time off” rather than “being absent”.

So, for planning pages based on which problems they solve one must figure out what the problems or tasks are. This is done by talking or interviewing the users about their workday. Then you can also hear the context in which the task is solved and what words or ideas the user has in mind. This page is supposed to be navigated to or be retrieved via the ideas the user has in mind, so it’s sensible to adapt to these.

2. Speak the same language

Often the task you want to solve is something you rarely do or maybe it’s even for the first time. The user may have a vague idea, or he/she might know quite precisely what they seek. In their mind there are always certain words or concepts that will hopefully lead to the information. If the information is structured by other concepts or words than those that the user has in mind, it will of course be difficult to find and solve the task.

So, “to speak the same language” is about using the language, headings, terms and jargon that the user does. Find out which words they use by interviewing and listening to your users. Then you can make it both easier to find the information and to understand it.

If the text is worded directly to the user in second person, it feels more personal and adapted, but it also increases the understanding. This eliminates the need for the user reformulate or to think if the information relates to oneself or someone else. Even this is a time saver for the user.

3. Split the page into smaller pieces

Once they have reached a page to solve a problem or a task, there may be sub-tasks that the user is looking to solve. You should plan the page into sections that support the various subtasks. And if the user did not land on the correct page for the task, we can plan for this and provide alternative links to progress onto other pages.

Your users are scanning your page rather than reading it as a whole. This is proven by a famous study done by the Nielsen Group, which shows that the user scans the page from top to bottom and searching with the eye after attention points to start from. The eye follows a F pattern in how they scan the page and the attention points where they stop are for instance headings, images and links.

  • Dispense the page in clear sections that provide answers the sub-tasks and support your users behaviour. Use the headings, paragraphs, bulleted lists or tables to make the page easy to scan and locate the important information.
  • Sort sections by the “common” or “important” principle. As users are looking through the page from top to bottom, you help them by placing what is most likely that they are searching for, as high as possible on the page. This way they do not need to scan through the page for long before they find what they´re looking for.
  • Heading, or the words that are used, are also important to lead directly to the appropriate section. The headlines have to describe what the page is about. Headlines such as “Miscellaneous …” or “Other information” are too vague. Use headlines that tell the user what information or sub-task they can expect to find in the section.

4. Optimize for readability

Even the texts can be optimized to save users time. And also here it is the most important sections first that apply. Sort the pieces so that the most important paragraph is in the first section, add details and background information last. Also within a section – the most important thing first, and then the details.

  • Headlines and pieces can also be optimized by starting with the keyword that the user may have in mind. When the user scans and stops at an attention point, or if they are simply reading the introductory words. Make sure you put the key elements first so the user will be led right to them.
  • The formatting can optimize and save time by enabling the user to scan the information faster. You can create attention points with a bulleted or numbered list. A keyword in bold also provides a good attention point, and a combined bullet list and bold keywords can provide even better readability.
  • Examine your texts and clean it up is another tip. A short text is easier to absorb. If it is unnecessarily long or complicated, you are actually wasting your users’ time. Shorten the texts where you can, and be straight to the point. Remove any formal expression or bureaucratic language. “Less is more” applies to your content as well.

You can be the hero!

As you are working with the content on the intranet or your digital workplace, you can actually save money for your organization and users. By using the tips above, start with structuring the information by which problem it solves, use ideas and language that the users understand and optimise the readability. All this will enable you to help the users save time when looking for information.

And you can become a “hero” in your organization! Adding a few extra hours of work towards the content saves money but also make your users happier and more satisfied with your intranet and digital workplace! Good luck with developing the content!

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