Convert your documents to pages on the intranet

The information across documents on the intranet is often a poor solution for your users. You can create more value and save time for your users by converting the documents to pages. Here are a few useful tips on how to do this.

Documents are often a poor solution on the intranet

An extra click for the user. To get to the information, the user needs to click to access it – the information is placed further away from the recipient and the extra click is a time waster.

Search results that create uncertainty. A search result on a document is hard to judge whether or not it will take you to the information you are looking for. Let us take for example if you need to know the routine for customer complaints and you search for “complaints”. The search results might return a document called “Handling the cash registry” and there is know way of knowing if the “customer complaint” routine can be found within this document.

Individual context. When you click and open a longer document, for instance a guideline, you get a new context outside of the intranet. To find the information you are looking for, you need to use the index or search within the document (something not every user knows how to do).

No links. The document does usually not contain links to related subjects, pages or documents. The users are going down a cul-de-sac that they need to back out of to get further.

Too much information. A document is meant to be a stand-alone piece of information. I.e. ready to print, read on its own or forward to someone without loosing context. This means that the document contains paragraphs and headings to place the information in a context, e.g. introductions or background. Furthermore, a document is usually written by an expert to explain a subject in-depth. The description and language is often long and elaborate.

Documents as a format is in other words not very user friendly and is a big time waster for the users of the intranet. Documents are good for stand-alone information, printing or sharing.

Convert the right documents

There are various types of documents, some of these are good for converting to pages.

For example written agreements, decisions, contracts, specifications, descriptions and blueprints. We can recognise these as being stand-alone pieces of information or references. There is often not a lot of value in converting these documents to intranet pages.

There are also more descriptive documents e.g. routines, rules, guidelines and manuals. They are suitable to convert to pages as they usually help the user get to the task they want to solve. Often these consist of several tasks you want to solve.

5 steps to get from document to page

How do you convert a document to a page? Here is a method you can use for guidelines, routines and similar types of documents.

  1. Analyse the document – think about what the user wants to do when they have found the document. You can for instance make a list similar to “How to…”, “I need to…” of the tasks at hand.
  2. Select the “How to tasks” that are regarded as central, important and common. You might need to talk to the users and stakeholders about what is common, or look at statistics and search words as an indicator.
    Group the “how to” tasks into subjects. Several of these will be closely related to each other and can be sorted into sub-categories of another main topic.
  3. Sort each subject into what is the main information, additional information and, if applicable, the background information to the tasks.
    The main information is usually a summary of a rule or the routine (e.g. “how to claim sick leave compensation”). The additional information can be varieties, details or deviations from the main task (e.g. You must be a full-time employee to claim compensation). The background information can be the reason behind the routine (e.g. Employee rights law for sick leave).
  4. Add pages to the intranet – we suggest one page per subject. It is not important if the pages are long, as long as they are divided into clear digestible paragraphs with headings. The users are familiar with scrolling through the pages and look for what they are trying to find.
    You might also need to create landing pages for subjects and categories, that the users can look through for links that lead them to the right information.
  5. Add links in the pages to relevant information and related tasks. Sometimes it might be useful to add attachments with references (e.g. lists, spreadsheets, in-depth rules etc.).

Manage increased information structure

When you convert documents to pages it will inevitably add levels in the informational hierarchy. It is after all that structure that was part of the original document, so there is nothing strange about it. Depending on how much data you have and how many levels you increase, various forms of structure might be suitable. Her are a few common solutions:

Make new templates for existing pages. This might be templates to add for long pages with paragraphs – and maybe even a navigation index on the page. You might also want to create landing pages to guide the user into content further down the hierarchy. This step is suitable if it is a relatively low amount of new pages.

Develop functionality for a database. An increasing variety of new templates where navigation, searching and filtration provides more functionality to the end user. This alternative is usually relevant when you do not have any standard functionality to use, and you have a large amount of data to publish.

Use wiki functionality. If your intranet tool has a wiki function it can be used as a database. The wiki functionality usually has headings and paragraphs as well as possibilities to link between the various pieces of information. This can also add the possibility of navigation and searching through the database. A wiki solution can be suitable for both smaller and larger pieces of data.

You save people’s time by converting

So convert the suitable documents to pages and build a database through existing functionality or developing new functionality in your intranet.

If useful information in a document can get closer to the user, you will reduce the time it takes to solve the task they came to the intranet for in the first place. Time they can use on other more productive tasks. You get more satisfied users when they experience the intranet as an effective and efficient tool.

 

Good luck with developing your content!

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!