In the third of our series on planning your new intranet, John talks about involving end-users to inform the structure and navigation of your intranet. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.
Businesses are complex, even if they don’t have a lot of staff, they have a lot of information, different processes and terminology. A big part of designing an effective intranet is making sure that we define the right information architecture.
The information architecture, or I.A., is basically the structuring of information, how we should organise things. The problem with this is that everyone seems to see this in a different way, everyone has a different mental model. So what we need to do is find the consensus so that we create an information architecture which makes sense to the most people possible.
In order to understand how different users see the business and how we should organise the information we run a series of card sorting sessions. Card sorting is a design technique that involves users. We write different topics of information on individual cards and then we ask the users to group those cards into logical categories.
There are two types of card sorting. An open sort is where the participants can invent their own categories, and this is useful when you’re creating a new site and you need to define a completely new information architecture. A closed sort is different, in this case the participants, have to categorise the information into pre-existing groups. And this is useful if you’ve got an existing information architecture and you need to bring in a lot of new information in to it.
The old fashioned way to do card sorting is face to face with users, using actual physical cards. It’s more time consuming but you do get more qualitative insight because you get to ask people what they’re thinking as they perform the task. Alternatively you can use online software to run your card sorting exercise. This is good because it gives you a larger sample size and you can get more quantitative insight. Such software often comes with built-in analysis tools that allow you to make more sense of the data. Ultimately whichever way you run your card sorting you should find that you have an improved sense of the I.A. that will resonate most with the majority of users.