Thursday, July 28, 2005

The project plan

There are 3 overall stages:

Information Architecture
Design and Layout

Information Architecture is further broken down into the following steps:

  • Requirements Gathering and Site Specification
    • Usability Review
    • Information Analysis
    • Intranet Survey
    • Category Assessment
    • Category Assessment in Focus Groups
    • Focus Group Summary
    • Information Needs Analysis
    • Amend the content to reflect information needs
    • Create tasks for hierarchy and interface testing
  • Site Structure and Hierarchy
    • Structure the information using focus group results and information needs analysis
    • Hierarchy Testing

Design and Layout is further broken down into the following steps:

  • Make a test layout on paper of the navigation and other items to go on the Intranet homepage
  • Ask the focus groups to test this layout
  • Make another test layout using the feedback from the focus groups
  • Make a sample web page and test the layout
  • Continue making test layouts until there are no further changes to make
  • Apply designs to the layouts and test as above
  • Further test the designs with more people in the company using an online survey.

Build is further broken down into the following steps:

  • Decide on a sensible set of pages to build for an initial release of the site
  • Generate any necessary content and update the current content
  • Convert the paper and other test layouts into web pages
  • Add the content to the web pages to be built for the initial release of the new Intranet
  • Test the pages as content is added
  • Continue building pages for addition to the site as above.
Focus Groups

The focus groups referred to were created by randomly selecting a member from each department of the company to be involved in the development throughout the project. I wrote an email to the department manager explaining what I wanted to do and who had been chosen and they all agreed I could then contact the chosen person directly to arrange their time.

Sometimes there were alternative people suggested as the randomly chosen person was going to be too busy. The participants themselves were also asked if they wanted to take part or if they wanted us to find another person in the department.

Informing the company

The plan described here was made into a presentation (in Macromedia Flash) and is published on the home page of the current Intranet. There is also a graphic tracking the overall progress of the project.

Document Management and Newsletter

Although these are part of the Intranet Re-development Programme they are not described in this plan as they are separate projects of their own.

The newsletter has the greatest relationship with the Intranet so I’ll describe that in the next post. Further posts will cover each of the stages in more detail.

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.

Next I wrote a project plan which I will describe in the next post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What’s this all about?

When I'm developing a website I always like to take a look at a range of sites within the market sector, but as I’m building a company Intranet I can’t very easily do that.

The (very useful) information I have found online covers how to conduct usability studies, best practices with CSS, HTML and developing according to web standards (

But, I could not find much information on:

  • people’s experiences of using the usability techniques I found described,
  • people’s experiences of developing with web standards for internal web applications and Intranets or
  • approaches to visual design for Intranets.

Following some conversations I had at the recent @media conference on web standards and accessibility ( I thought it might be useful to add to the available material by publishing a blog of the Intranet Re-development Project I am working on.

Here’s a disclaimer: This is just a chart of the project activity.

I just want to share these experiences and results (where possible). I think it would be great to hear of the different ways other people may have approached similar things.

Here’s another disclaimer: I obviously can’t publish internal company information. I'll be describing the process from the point of view of project plan definition, techniques chosen, results expected and obtained from usability studies, things we learned along the way, that sort of stuff...

The next post will start off with a project description...