Intranet redesign research tools
Intranet managers and consultants are the consummate knowledge workers. And most of us have come to learn intimately that knowledge is power.
In particular, an intranet manager needs to explicitly know and understand:
• the requirements of the business
• intranet best practices
• the preferences and needs of employees
On the last point, understanding the needs of employees, there are a number of tools at the disposal of managers including log analysis, surveys, focus groups and usability testing.
Each tool has its place and its pros and cons. The best tool, of course, it depends on…
• the organization’s culture
• the present position of the intranet on the evolutionary curve
• the extent of ‘research fatigue’ at the organization
• what data ‘sells’ best
While not necessarily applicable to other commodities such as, say, consumer packaged goods, the following tables can be used as a quick cheat sheet for comparing the various tools applicable to researching intranet target audience requirements.
What to use first?
Enquiring minds have debated the timing of employing a research tool when undertaking an intranet redesign. It’s almost always best to lead with in-depth interviews (stakeholder interviews) of the business stakeholders (managers and executives) as the first step. It’s critical to understand what the business needs and expects from the intranet.
Once the intranet consultant or manager has a more in-depth understanding of the business requirements driving an intranet redesign then the deployment of an employee user survey can help validate qualitative research interviews with quanitative user research. Quantitative research – large scale statistical data – help support or sometimes contradict qualitative research such as interviews, focus groups and usability testing.
Focus groups can be used at any time, but often are helpful for testing visual designs and concepts, and testing the validity of quantitative research such as user surveys, or to further explore or initiate in-depth conversations on issues that arouse during the survey or interviews.
Usability testing is best done when there’s a working prototype; there’s no point in doing one-on-one usability testing with a site that is going to be completely reconstrucdted. When usability testing is best deployed is when it is testing navigation paths, forms, and information architecture once a prototype or beta site has been built based on previous research methods.
There are of course many subtleties to site research – and always exceptions to the rule. Many factors come in to play when choosing your research tools and the time to implement each. A lot depends on the culture of the organization, and understanding what executives want to hear. For example, if money is the only thing that sells a project, it’s better to invest your time and energy in measuring return on investment.
When undertaking intranet research it’s preferable that the intranet owner or manager does not conduct the research themselves as results can be biased and the end result flawed.
Also read: Intranet redesign