Ask Don’t Tell: How to Create Great Intranet User Experience

Great employee intranets are designed with the User Experience in mind. The best way to provide a fun and functional UX is through expert research.

By Cathy Dew

Any good intranet designer worth their salt knows to put the employee front and center.

And, depending on the complexity and size of each project, an experienced information architect will make use of research tools that will culminate in a great interaction design.

User Experience design research is goal-driven.

What this means, simply, is that a designer usually knows from the outset, at least in broad-brushed terms, what they want to accomplish in the context of UX. And I’m not talking about bells and whistles, features and functions. Those are important, certainly, but the first goal of an experienced UX-centric designer is to create an employee intranet that generates value and utility for the user.

But utility alone won’t do the trick.

It’s also about the FUNctionality

There’s no reason to bypass the element of fun.  Here is where those bells and whistles, features and functions come in.

As UX guru and Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego Don Norman says, while products must be functional, understandable and usable, we also need to make them pleasurable, exciting, and fun. And while we are at it, why not make them beautiful too?

So how do you know what your users need and what will tickle their intranet-using fancies?

Well…drumroll please…you ask them!

UX designers have a whole set of research tools they can use to assess the best way to design an intranet that will make sense to users. During the IA process, a designer will likely choose one or more tried-and-tested UX research techniques. For example, an Information Architect might consider using:

  • Card Sorting.  A method often used in psychological research, card sorting simply consists of writing words or phrases on cards and then asking the user to put them in categories. You can do card sorting the old-fashioned way (with actual index cards), or you can find online simulations. Regardless of the method used, card sorting is a great way to get user input early on in the process to gauge whether the designers are on the right track.
  •  Field Studies: In this approach, the researcher turns into a bit of an anthropologist. By meeting the users while and where they are actually engaging with a product, the researcher gets the advantage of gauging what works and doesn’t from the users’ point of view.
  • Usability Testing: Here, the users are brought to a controlled environment where they perform set tasks so the researchers can observe how they interact with certain aspects of a product. There is wide latitude in what can be tested and measured, and there are even remote options that can save money while expanding the number of participants. Usability testing allows designers to focus on discrete aspects of the UI, so they can later apply this intelligence to their interaction design.
  • User Personas: After deciphering data garnered from surveys and other information-gathering methods, researchers create a fictional character to represent someone who takes on the goals, characteristics, attitudes, and expectations of a typical user. This fictional user stays top of mind throughout the process, helping designers create a UX that will resonate with their intended audience.

2Plus2 knows UX research.

2Plus2 Information Architects and interaction designers can affordably and expertly leverage the appropriate research tools to create an intranet that meets your organization’s goals while providing a functional and fun UX for your employees.

Want to learn more about how IA research can enhance an employee intranet design project? Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

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Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
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