User Research and Content Strategy August 11th, 2011

Project Challenge: To identify user requirements and create a content strategy for the development of a SharePoint managed Intranet.

Project overview: The clients Intranet is in it fourth incarnation. With the selection of SharePoint as the preferred technology platform, previously missed opportunities to create something far more than the current document store are required with the aim of progressing the intranet to a stage 2/3 intranet.

Key deliverables

  • Content inventory and audit of 12000+ items managed by 100+ editors
  • Migration plan for 12000+ content items
  • Content Strategy for medium to long term development
  • Proposed and tested information architecture
  • Documentation and analysis of multiple open and closed card sorting exercises and user group sessions

Key areas of interest

User Experience Design, Content Strategy and Audit, SharePoint

Approach and design

Prior to my involvement the client had collected user research form a series of user group sessions that included open card sorting activities and user surveys. Having collected a large amount of raw data no clear indication as to how to proceed had appeared. Only having analysed the data with a number of tools did patterns begin to appear.

The resulting patterns defined an initial information architecture. This subsequently formed the basis of closed card sorting workshops where an extended number of content items were sorted to inform the design of the 2nd and 3rd levels of content structure needed to categories the vast amount of information that would remain as part of the new intranet.

Some initial skepticism of yet more workshops at the time of ‘cost cutting’ and having to ‘justify’ all meetings soon evaporated as the client team witnessed first hand the value in having people from across the organisation (the target audience) sort content against the proposed structure. Having been provided the framework for running successful workshops allowed the client with further guidance to run subsequent workshops across the UK, feeding the results back into the intranets proposed information architecture and content strategy.

An additional design artifact derived from the extended content sort was the ability to model content against the primary goals set by the business. With a visual representation of content to business aims, gap analysis became a simple task of identifying those aims not supported by content and equally showed areas with too much content that could potentially be optimised further.

Content Strategy

Previous intranet developments involved migrating all content with little consideration for its validity, current value - whether it was up to date - or quality. Described by the team as an “opportunity miss” a plan to enable a full content audit was required. This was no small task 12000+ content items required assignment to one of the 100+ content editors for review.

Plans to complete a content audit within a two-week period proved overly optimistic; eventually the task was completed in just under a month. The time invested meant that almost 40% of the content currently published would be archived during the migration process to the new SharePoint platform.

Removing this vast amount of content would to large extent help resolve some of the problems identified in responses to the user survey responses from across the organisation. One of the key points noted was that the findability of information was considered poor. With ‘outdated’ content being archived combined with all content having been reviewed meant that the information that remained was of a high quality.

Actionable deliverables

  • Migration Plan
  • Information Architecture
  • Content Strategy

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