Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why not do another card sort?

As you can see from the last post we were dealing with some very confused content.

So why not do another card sort?

Well, we could do another card sort on the contents of the Staff Handbook which were not included in the 1st one. But we aren't going to. For these good reasons:

  1. The company has a deeply ingrained habit of organising things departmentally.
  2. The content of the handbook needs work to split the policies into policy and procedure.
  3. We don't have time.
The departmental habit

I think it would be very confusing to present staff with the handbook content and ask them to sort it in a non-departmental way.

In the earlier card sort we deliberately left out content that was departmental and only included the things that ought to be centrally managed.

The result of the card sorts (with a cross section of staff representing each department) was a departmental organisation of the content.

Part of our aim in our re-organisation is re-education. Some people already get it and some will need more help and more time.

The content needs work

The staff handbook is currently a bit confusing. Some of the policies contain a mixture of procedure and policy. Some of them are purely policy or procedure. Overall they are not clearly formatted to show what you must do and why you must do it (or what must happen and why).

It would not be helpful to present confused material to people and ask them to sort it out into related groups. Before we can do this we need to review the handbook content, decide what we are splitting up and put these entries into our new hierarchy (as I described in some way in the last post, this is what we are doing now).

We don't have time

As I said earlier we had a break in this project to work on something else. We've involved people, we've got enthusiasm and participation. We have to deliver something this year whilst these things are still current. The Intranet re-development was started before and work was diverted to other things and then re-development didn't happen - we can't afford to let this happen again.

Return to content

Since September last year we've been organising and re-organising content (amongst other things - I mean we haven't spent an entire year doing just this!). But anyway my point is that in the process we've changed the names of some things and other things have been moved, deleted and added.

The hierarchy for the navigation has become a little abstract so it seemed a good idea to get back to the content.

So now we have a note against each item in the list telling us what exists on the current Intranet, what exists in the staff handbook and what we need to create. Now we can see just how much work we need to do on the content. It's a lot.

Also, now it feels more comfortable to radically re-name the items in the navigation hierarchy.

It's important to do this as it could help us with the naming problem I was describing in the last few posts.

We were struggling with names for sections and everyone we asked struggled too. We found that some confusion was coming from the labelling of content items.

When I was looking at the lists one afternoon I remembered how difficult it was to ask people to find certain things because they were listed in our new hierarchy according to what they are now, instead of what they will be.

Basically we needed to re-name things. We did re-name a lot of items during the card-sorting at the start of this process but as mentioned earlier this had not included the staff handbook - as it wasn't on the Intranet at the time.

Our confusion was deep and I'll try and describe it but I'm not sure how much sense it will make.

The items that are on the current Intranet and in the Staff Handbook need work. Intranet content which was poorly named was identified in the card sorting. However, some policies
may need the procedure elements splitting out of them but these were not all listed as their clean, new, rennovated items, they were listed in their current format.

For instance the sick leave policy is a document at the moment which contains a procedure and our plan is to separate it into 2 items, perhaps also combining it with another policy which covers the self-certification of sickness (and also contains some procedure).

So in the new Intranet there will be a section where you can read what you should do if you are ill and how to go about certification (when do you need a form from the doctor? When should you call in? Who should you call? Basically: what you have to do if you are ill) and a link to the policy (how many days sick leave are you entitled to? What happens when you've used them all up? How is long term sick leave dealt with? Basically: what the rules are about absence due to illness).

Here's the confusion: We had 2 items listed called 'Sick leave policy' and 'Sickness self certification policy'. And no entry for what you actually have to do.

For us doing the organisation it was easy to feel the sense of the category as we knew that the items would be split but because this was an evolution it wasn't obvious that confusion was coming from some content items which we still needed to re-name.

So, now we've got to the bottom of it and we're re-naming all of the hierarchy content that needs to be re-named. Hopefully this will clarify the purpose of the categories to others and lead to meaningful names for them.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Yay support!

Found 2 good articles this week that helped me feel clearer about our intentions.

The 1st is Navigation Blindness, an article describing research ino people's behaviour when reading websites. The very interesting point is that people tend to ignore navigation aids.

This made sense to me as a lot of layouts have a top and left navigation with a different background colour to the central content area. The effect is to frame and draw attention to the content area, sometimes probably intentionally.

The solution to this navigation blindness is to give links the right trigger words to help guide people to find what they are looking for. This is very similar to what we're doing with the Intranet hierarchy tests at the moment.

The second thing I found was on Design by Fire in an article called 'Please make me think' about:
"Should you, as a designer, be bound by some ethical mantra to make your work deeper, more thoughtful and complex, not aimed for the lowest common denominator of your user base"
The article goes on to discuss laziness of thought in general and the effect of this on people as well as the premise in the context of making a website.

An interesting thought when you've been buried deep in the details of trying to make something as intuituve as possible so people don't have to think about it. It made me think about our aim of trying to get people out of the 'departmental' habit. The discussion in the comments was all highly relevant but one of the things that stood out for me was in comment no 24, the line that says:
"So did you make them think? No, you made them learn"
That's what we want, exactly. We don't want people to have to think about where to go to find a form or a procedure or a policy. We do want them to learn a new way of representing the company which is not departmental.

Change is good

The current Intranet (which I've described before) is departmentally organised. The effect of this is that people have to know who is responsible for something before they can find information on it.

The added complication is that nothing is managed centrally so things occur in department areas which don't belong there at all.

With the new Intranet we want to change this because a departmentally structuredIntranet is not helpful to anyone and because the habit of viewing everything in the company departmentally is not helpful.

It is a major aim throughout the company at the moment, to stop people thinking departmentally.

Because it is such a deeply ingrained habit our new Intranet structure is going to meet resistance and cause some discomfort.

This means we have to be extra careful in our testing because, as I said in the previous post, some of the results are negative (meaning someone didn't find an item) because they were looking for that departmental organisation. For instance they looked for a category labeled 'HR' or 'IT support'.

We could get it completely wrong. We may be thinking that people failed to find an item because they are not used to a non-departmental structure, but it could actually be in the wrong place.

The words are evading me

We still don't have titles for the major categories but things are feeling a bit better.

The items that were in the categories were still a bit mixed up and they are more logical now after testing. The testing was difficult with the category names we had but comments during the tests helped us to refine the names along with the category contents.

We seem to have gone through a cycle:
  • The names are wrong and the contents are mixed up
  • The some content gets moved which refines the name
  • There are still bits of content in the wrong places and the names need to be clarified to help sort the content.
So, the category naming is informing the content that should be in there and the content sorting is informing the category names.

It's a tangled situation and a painful process.

So now we plan to spend time thinking about our category names so we can try and make it clearer what should be in the category so we can sort the content a bit more effectively.

One of the major problems is that the bulk of info is staff handbook stuff - policies and procedures and they are being spread across categories because the Intranet will be the staff handbook when it's made.

Staff here are used to these all being under one heading so that's what they expect. When they see them in more than one location they get confused.

So part of our test results are due to content being in the wrong places and things having the wrong names. Another part is that we are trying to change the way people view this information.