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01/31/2011

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Intranet Benchmarking Forum

Hi Julie, great post that really gets into the detail of the issues facing organisations trying to grapple with getting the right content to the right people at that right time.

A couple of things I'd add to your thoughts:

1. Any strategy in this area needs to address two sometimes distinct things: supporting users in *finding* content; making content *discoverable*. For me these are the fundamentals and they can't be resolved except by really understanding who needs to find the content, why they need it, and where they need it (including when). Also, it is vital to have a good look at what the content they need to 'find' is, and how to make it discoverable.

The solutions to these challenges are going to depend a lot on the scale and budget of any given organisation, but there is a lot that can be achieved by simple, tech free methodologies - creating personas, performing observations of real users, examining content repositories and native metadata - that really help to steer the organisation towards the most effective solution.

2 - Absolutely agree that "everyone is an 'information worker'". We all have to tackle a lot of information discovery work - not just in our workplaces but in our home lives too. This also can be a powerful indicator of the best-fit solution for your organisation. One of the key drivers of usability in any system is how well it matches an individuals existing experience or expectations of a system. This isn't a case for stifling innovation, but if there are experiences that users in an organisation are accustomed to - whether official strategies or emergent ones - leveraging these and evolving along those lines can be a good solution, and there is no reason to exclude experiences that happen outside the workplace.

The convention of placing the search box in the top right of a page and the logo in the top left (excluding right-to-left written pages of course) emerged because it was an expectation brought from the internet to the intranet. The kind of predictive findability techniques discussed here and other strategies will also work best if presented in a way that users are already accustomed to - for example a 'Users who search for this [search term] also viewed [alternative results]' is a pattern familiar to users of many websites like Amazon, ebay.

Essentially, you hit it on the head for me with the terms 'emergence' and 'governance'. Success in findability relies on monitoring usage, behaviour and user feedback and executing strategies based on this. In my work for the IBF, it often not the intranets with the most technology onboard that perform the best for users in these areas, but those who apply skilled resources to the maintenance of content and discovery service - with edited 'best bets' or feedback channels, for example - no matter what the scale or budget.

Julie Hunt

Thanks so much for adding your excellent and well-detailed comments to the conversation. Especially your reminders that there is non-tech, human-oriented work to be done to help people more quickly find the information and knowledge that they need. I very much agree that focusing on humans and how they work best are key points for determining best methods for "findability".

And thanks for all the good work that IBF does for improving the quality and effectiveness of intranets!

Cheers,
Julie

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