Monday, February 19, 2007

Where did it all begin

When I started working for ‘This Company’ (whose name I can’t disclose or I will self destruct in 10 seconds) the Intranet was organised departmentally. Each department had developed its own section; there was no unified look and feel and no common conventions had been followed, e.g. a style guide covering fonts, new window opening policy, graphics, permissible content etc. This had led to a situation where each department had placed content in its area independently.

The problems were (in summary):

  • Duplication of content
  • Content in unexpected locations
  • Difficulty finding content
  • Lack of use (People didn’t look for content because no-one expected to find anything useful – although there were some potentially useful things stored there)
  • Difficult to use – Colour and font choices that made it hard to read, new windows opening unnecessarily (within one department area a new window opens for almost every link)

These things were obvious without conducting any usability surveys.

The people who committed these crimes can’t be prosecuted – they were unaware!

What I mean is they hadn’t had any guidance on how to create their sites and were trying to help by making the information available to a wider audience, so my list is not made to point at them and laugh; it’s just to set the scene.

OK, the scene is set, we know what the current situation is, what next?

This is what I did:

  • Read. Lots. About developing for Intranets.
  • Made a project plan

The Intranet Roadmap is where we started. We had a meeting to go through all the stages in the Roadmap and filled out all the sections. At the end we had the following results:

  • We planned to build a new Intranet from scratch and not re-develop the old one.
  • We needed to analyze the current intranet to asses which content was going to be web based and which document based, this was to be done by me, a colleague and our manager. We would invite people to participate - content owners who had previously published content or who currently updated content.
  • We would decide on the structure/hierarchy for the new intranet (departmentally structured or otherwise?).
  • We needed to write a plan for the process of introducing the next intranet including; what needs to be done, what the priorities are, who to include and when. This was also expected to help define an appropriate time to launch the new site.
  • The launch version of the site would not be the complete site, but must be the basic skeleton of the ‘final’ site so that it can be built upon and not thrown away.
  • We wanted to learn and practice using Macromedia Contribute to see where and how we could use it.
  • I was to think about design guidelines and planned to discuss this with the Marketing department to use any existing house styles where relevant.
  • A business requirement for a Document Management System was established as a separate project to the Intranet. It still relates to it as there will be links to the documents in there from the intranet and some of the current intranet content will need to be in the Document Management System.
  • An online version of the company Newsletter was required which we would need to develop in conjunction with the Marketing department.

So in the end we had an Intranet Re-development Programme with 2 sub-projects; the Document Management System and the Company Newsletter.