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An intranet is the cousin of the internet

Sat, Nov 18, 2006

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An intranet is the first cousin to the internet and it yields a degree of credit to your business. I was fortunate to be working for a design agency in Edinburgh some years ago. The agency was being reviewed for a prestigious Scottish award and the MD wanted to win the award desperately. I was assigned the mission of designing and content managing the intranet.

Our first objective was to establish goals! In my case, my two most important goals for the intranet were:

1. Usability – It had to be something that could repeat over and over again without people getting tired of it.

2. Functionally – It must perform when the employees want to obtain and search for data.

Step 1: Research

The best start is to research. I asked around with questions about how the intranet would benefit them and what documents would be of use. Many staffs were kind enough to share with me their experiences about what they liked about the intranet and what they didn’t. I also researched other intranets and assessed what their strengths and weaknesses were. Finally, I came up with a set of features I want the intranet to have.

Step 2: Sitemap

This is a project the whole company will benefit from so a happy camp is vital. After gaining an understanding for the vision and necessities of the intranet, I sketched out a site map. I believed that a site map is vital to gaining an understanding of how the site is going to flow. It also ensures that I will have a clear path of what is required. To cover all my bases, I sat down with the MD, Operations Manager and the Web Developer to gain input and map out the sitemap. This ensured that my sitemap was watertight and that I had left nothing out.

Step 3: Getting Content

I started data mining early for the relevant content. It is very important to stick to the site map so you don’t get off track as building an intranet can be a long and tiring task. I had to ensure that all the information was up to date and relevant. Many emails were send to people in the company to get the the documents I needed. I also took down alot of notes and I believed effective time and assets management helped me alot that time.

Step 4: Designing

The aesthetics for the intranet is an extremely important element. In my circumstances, the design had to be with consistent with the company’s identity. Every day the MD, Creative Director and staff would be logging on to this – so I had to ensure that the design is non invasive, friendly and timeless. After a long brain storming process, I finally decided to import a concept into the design, ie to used pictures of staff outings and our favorite quotes in all the pages. As you can see from the screen shots, I tried to keep the navigation as simple as possible to improve the user friendliness of the system.

Step 5: Reflection

I kept reminding myself “To be educated and to educate”. That motivated me to develop compelling, user-friendly web page content and page layouts. Regular conversations and meetings prevented me from going down the wrong path. It also offered me inspiration and fresh ideas to re-design the webpages. One important process during this project was the 2 way communication between me and the web developer. The web developer had certain Dos and Donts for the intranet. He told me how he was going to code it and place it on our web server. That piece of information was important to my design.

Conclusion

I learnt alot when designing the intranet. The 5 steps described above are the basic elements I find vital to building a well excepted and functional intranet. PS – The company won the award.

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