DCMS continues to follow the GDS design principles as the new intranet goes into beta this week. It’s not finished yet. It’s not 100% perfect. And it’s available for staff to use and provide their feedback.
At my last check, the team have loaded 375 tasks and guides into the How do I? section which will form the main content of the intranet.
There’s more to do, but I love the way that Andrew Simpson and his team aren’t waiting until everything is 100% complete and signed off before a big bang event. The structure of the intranet is in place, there’s a good bulk of content available, tagged and categorised for browsing, or accessible via search. We’ve done our best job in designing and populating the intranet. But the proof is in the pudding now as this beta will enable further iterations and improvements via feedback from the staff.
There is a feedback mechanism in place. Similar to GOV.UK, the footer on every page contains a feedback form that expands when you click the ‘Is something wrong?’ link. It’s a very simple form with one feedback box and it will automatically send details of the intranet page and staff email if logged in. Plus Google Analytics is in place so that we can start to analyse the patterns of incoming data.
How do I?
The bulk of the content on this intranet will fall into the ‘How do I?’ section. It’s made up of one page tasks and multi-page guides with concise content. The page is dominated by a search box that allows searching by category. There’s a useful tag cloud for browsing across categories. And staff can browse by individual category.
This is an example of the IT category listings of tasks and guides. They are worded in plain English, as a staff member might search for them. Titles are short, typically five words or less, and in the active voice.
Listing pages also contain a tag cloud for the individual category and a search box to search by category.
Tasks and guides
The one-page answers are short and to the point.
Guides contain more than one page and are paginated with next and previous options at the bottom of each page.
The Content is King mantra lives on in this intranet project, and I feel that it is the content that will be the success of this intranet. It would be easy to screw this up by allowing reams and reams of ROT to accumulate. But the content team, lead by Lizzie Bruce, are keeping things simple and restricting content to an organised collection of information. The content really is simple, with some pages consisting of a one-line answer. No fluff. No vanity publishing. Real help for staff.
One of my popular search phrases that I use when testing intranet searches is ‘eye test’ (see Google search result examples). On the DCMS intranet there is one result. We’ll see how things progress with the addition of more content but because the content is good, the search results are good in testing. Also worth noting that no documents are included in results, only intranet pages.
Tagged content works well when it is managed well. Tags are a core part of WordPress and have been a feature of most of the recent websites that we’ve launched. Their purpose is to act as a pivotal navigation mechanism to allow people to traverse difference parts of the website, viewing different types of content typically grouped under a tag. In using tags I find that content publishers try to think of as many different words that they can to use as tags. This is what we might do when applying keywords to a page. But tags are quite the opposite. Instead of thinking of all the different words that you can apply to one page, it’s better to think of all the different pages that you can apply to one tag word or phrase.
A well-managed taxonomy will make for a better user experience and for better tag clouds with more possibility of discovering related content. Pages that are tagged with loads of random words will generate a very flat tag cloud and often means that when people click on a tag they are presented with one item on a search results page. If a tag only ever appears on one page then this creates a useless self-loop with no possibility of discovering other pages.
This example shows everything for the ‘building move’ tag, and allows filtering by tasks, projects or news.
Half of the homepage is devoted to the corporate news feed where stories can feature photos and videos. Administrators can set emergency alert messages to appear at the top of the homepage.
The other half of the homepage provides four sets of listings. The popular pages section displays intranet pages with the most pageviews over a week, generated from Google Analytics. The recently published section shows new or freshly updated pages. The forum area shows posts from the staff forums that are generating buzz. The departmental Twitter feed is on display – for as long as we can use the Twitter API.
There are built-in controls to override the automated lists, so it’s possible to stick a news story to the top of the list for a week for those important announcements and longer campaigns.
A truly mobile intranet?
The new intranet framework is responsive. Like GOV.UK, it’s designed to adapt to mobile screens. But that’s no benefit if the only place to see the intranet is in the office on a desktop PC running a crusty version of Internet Explorer. This intranet, and I mean all of it, will be available securely via login on any device, for staff in the office, for staff using smartphones and tablets out in the field, working from home or on the move. For me it’s a first.
Project and vacancies
Although we acknowledge that there are not going to be lots of job vacancies in the listings, there is an area for jobs. And these are linked up to projects where appropriate.
As a mentioned when I introduced the new DCMS intranet in my last blog post, this is the first intranet where I’ve seen a dedicated projects area, highlighting everything the department is doing and how this ties in with wider government policy. It’s a great way of keeping staff in tune with current work.
There are around 30 individual forums already setup for staff to use covering sports and social, staff networks, classified and general noticeboard. The team are seeding the forums with initial posts and will let staff use this area freely. Staff must register with their work email address so there are no anonymous posts. Forums that are generating replies will feature on the intranet homepage in a live feed.
After weeks of development and content population the most exciting time will be the next week or so as we gather feedback from staff and make final functionality changes before the official launch, the building move and the switch off of the old intranet.
Added: 15 March
The “About” section
Most intranets have a section that tells you about the organisation. On the DCMS intranet this section contains the projects, vacancies and forums. There’s also a “Who we are area” that covers the typical what we do, ministers, board and org charts that you’d expect to find. However, there is no duplicated information. This section links to appropriate areas of GOV.UK, to individual board members, ministers and MPs for example. It makes for a very lightweight area of the intranet, good in search results, and it’s supported by the projects section which showcases current work.
The news section is a little bit different to anything I’ve tried before, in terms of navigation. Acknowledging that news is transitory, we’re trialling a Twitter-style ajax loading feature that will display additional news items on the news homepage, instead of paging between page 1, page 2 etc.
As we’ve started the intranet news section afresh, there’s not enough news as I write to trigger the loading feature, but it will be interesting to get feedback on this.
Name the intranet
Before official launch, the team are running a competition with staff to name the new intranet. It’s currently running with the name “Culture Hub”, and although I’ve never been one for pet names for “the intranet”, I’m kinda hoping our working title sticks.