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Intranets – 16 golden rules

by mel starrs on January 9, 2007

in Outlook, Wordpress and Other Tips

I haven’t mentioned Dave Pollard in a while – he writes some excellent stuff on the environment but also has a specialism in KM (knowledge management) – one of my own bugbears. This post gives the 16 golden rules for intranets, extranets and company websites. If you are in a large company wondering why no-one uses your intranet, this list could give you some clues. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to be introducing an intranet, save some time and avoid the pitfalls he gives. The items which resonated the most with me was number 5, 7 and 14:

“Every resource should have its own unique URL that users can bookmark and find their way back to. That means no frames.”

“Users should be able to get from the home page to the resource they seek in a single click. That may require use of menus that only show up when you hover, or scroll through lists in small windows, to prevent the home page being overwhelming.”

“Sites should use RSS to allow users to ‘publish’ their content to the Intranet or Extranet, and to allow them to subscribe to a wide variety of internal and external content using a single ‘sign up’, and get that content delivered the way the user chooses (e.g. e-mail, aggregator page).”

Having previously ‘worked’ with an intranet which was entirely constructed of frames, I know what a frustrating experience it can be. The same intranet had a path of around 6 clicks to get to my most relevant page and there was no way of being notified when new content was added.

My current employer has a much improved offering, but still has room for improvement (RSS anyone?).

Dave goes on to discuss the possibly prohibitive costs involved in implementing such a system and questions “would such an upgrades just reveal how thin, stale and useless their current content and tools really are?”.

The usefulness of an intranet is only as valuable as the content within it (obviously). Useful content needs to be generated by the users. In order for a culture of content generation to be fostered, a value within the company needs to be placed on it. If adding content to an intranet equates within the company culture of ‘having too much time on your hands’, the intranet is not likely to be that useful. If, on the other hand, user content is rewarded, content will grow. The company benefits, as ‘discretionary effort’ over and beyond that required to do the ‘day job’ has a mechanism by which it can be measured and rewarded. Checks and measures to prevent this taking over the ‘day job’ should also be in place, but what I’m advocating is the kind of ethos which recognises that curiosity* has it’s place in the workplace (the most famous example being Google’s 70/20/10 rule: Spend 70 percent of your time on the core business, 20 percent on related projects, and 10 percent on unrelated new businesses).

What I would love to see implemented in an intranet is a kind of Digg, where users vote on what content they find the most useful. Care would obviously need to be taken in the design of such a system, but to me it promises the beginnings of a way of awarding non-financial reward to the ‘discretionary effort’ given by the intranet’s contributors. It also rewards sharing of knowledge.

We’re a few years off this yet, I suspect.

*This reminds me of my favourite Dorothy Parker quote: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”