One of, if not the biggest, draws to your intranet is content, whether that’s from a select group of authors or on more social intranets, user generated content. However just because it’s on your intranet doesn’t mean your author’s job is done. Content needs to be more than just another job ticked off of a task list.
Is the content on your intranet awesome?
Do your users look at it and get what they should?
Do they even care about your intranet?
In most cases the answers are no. So how do you go about fixing this situation?
However if you don’t have it, ensure these tips are in your author guidance (and if you don’t have author guidance, get writing now!):
1) The Online World is Flat
Only ever use an uploaded document if you really have to. You should encourage all your authors to build flat (build your own) pages unless there is a very good reason not to for a piece of content.
Directing your users away from your intranet makes the user experience far less seamless and makes the user far less likely to comment or share the author’s content as they have to come back to anther page to do so.
It also takes your users into the nightmare world of pop up blockers (every Support Desk’s biggest headache).
2) Make Your Content an Evolving Conversation Starter, Not a Static Publication
Make sure your authors don’t think the job is done once they’ve published a document. They need to respond to their alerts whenever a comment is made, if that content can be updated from the comments then do it immediately.
Keep your expiry dates short, ideally your authors should be reviewing their content every six months to make sure it is timely, accurate and engaging.
Make @tagging and #tagging easy to do, this is the key to getting the behaviour adopted on a broad scale. Having a user base who feel liberated to comment, share and recommend means you are enhancing the knowledge of crowds on every piece of content.
To use the old sales adage “people buy from people”. Adding a face to your content personalises that content. It differentiates it from a generic, static document which is typical of a tell communication culture.
If you can’t see a face you are less likely to comment as you don’t know if anyone will read it or action your suggestions.
Making their contact details visible, ideally using a Clever Link which displays details when you hover over a name, allows your user to contact the author privately if you don’t feel confident.
4) Keep Your Title Short and Sweet
Don’t try and tell the whole story in your headline.
Ideally your title should be 2-9 words long. Put just enough in to describe the content.
Excess title length increases the risk of irrelevant search results occurring, making your intranet less usable.
It may also, depending on your intranet platform, affect the way your title is displayed in widgets and lists.
5) Your Summary is Not a Repeat of Your Title
Your content summary should add greater context to your title. It must not just be a repeat of the title, that’s pointless.
Your summary also effects the searchability of your content and informs the user what they can expect from your document, both as an overview and possible actions. Think of it as an executive summary of your content.
Ideally your summary should be 10-20 words long.
6) Ensure Your Content is Readable
Your authors can measure the readability statistics of their content using Microsoft Word’s Flesch Reading Ease. To activate the Flesch stat in Word is simple but unknown by a lot of Word Users:
– Review > Spelling & Grammar > Options
– Tick Show Readability Statistics and Press OK
Now when you check spelling, it will show readability stats at the end of your spell check. The stats will show how many passive sentences you have, as well as the number of words per sentence.
7) A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
A lot of people’s interest is increased when there is something more visual than just plain text.
It’s emotive and encourages catches people’s attention which can then be maintained through following these other tips
The only time you shouldn’t do this is when you’re audience includes remote workers working from restricted access technology such as Toughbooks. In this instance it can increase loading times by two or three times which reduces the usability of your content.
8 ) Bust Your Jargon
Your content needs to be simple to both understand and action.
At my old company jargon, abbreviations and acronyms were a cultural disease. We had an ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre – not manned by Noah!), NSC (National Service Centre – a customer and engineer call centre) and PDRs (Personal Development Review – annual performance review).
It was a nightmare as a new starter and we also found people’s understanding of these abbreviations and acronyms were not consistent across the business.
To get round this the author guidance insisted all abbreviations had to be expanded the first time they were used on a page with the meaning next to them if authors absolutely had to use the acronym, for example the ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre).
We also had a Jargon Buster section which included every acronym and abbreviation so people could reference and comment against what this term meant. Whenever the expansion was used, it was Clever Linked to that abbreviation in the Jargon Buster.
We had over three hundred items in that Jargon Buster.
9) Make Your Content Searchable
Authors often assume, as I identified in 2) Make Your Content an Evolving Conversation Starter, Not a Static Publication, that once they’ve written the content, their job is done. Actually they’ve wasted their time if they don’t make sure users can find that content to use it in the intended (and sometimes unintended) way.
A strong title and summary will make the content findable in relevant searches but keywords will add essential additional searchability. The keywords must be different to the title and summary to have any benefit. We recommend you use 3-6 keywords.
If a piece of content is intended as the de facto starting point on a topic, ensure the author knows how to alert a content area administrator or general intranet administrator to have it added as the Best Bet against a search term. This works in the same way as a sponsored Google ad word.
10) Know Your Audience and How They Access Your Intranet
In preparing for this blog I’ve used a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad…and the back of a beer mat (available in all good pubs!). With the continued rise of consumerisation in the workplace, your intranet needs to support this and your content suitable for these tools (beer mat not withstanding).
Most of these tools will make your intranet scalable but you can maximise the impact with a mobile module. However for workers who work in low reception areas on restricted technology and rely on the intranet to do their job, for example accessing manuals, time is critical.
Measure the speeds of access across common technologies. As identified above, speed of access is critical to remote workers, particularly front line workers.
I’ve included the ready reckoner we provided content owners at Romec although the majority of the remote worker specific documents were PDFs. I recommended we never targeted anything above 2MB at our remote workers. If something was bigger we broke it down into separate articles.
Whenever possible, get out into the field and understand how your atypical workers actually work. Don’t just trust anecdotal evidence, it’s rarely right.
Putting it All Together
A good author guide may not necessarily have all the answers but it should give your authors a simple set of actions to follow. You may choose to go one step further as G4S have and created an authors team area where they can share good examples, ask questions and help to understand and influence good practice when writing content.
As an Intranet Manager or a member of the intranet team, you need to keep an eye on who is the assigned owner of a piece of content, if that person leaves your business, ensure it is assigned to someone else. Again this is something identified for you by Interact 5.2 .
All these steps are easy to implement, failing to do so could leave you sitting on an intranet disaster waiting to happen.