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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!