Relevanssi WordPress plugin: intranet search comparisons

As part of the forthcoming iteration of the GovIntranet WordPress theme, I’ve been testing search results. I compared search results on 2 client intranets, each using their own content, but different search implementations:

Both intranets use bespoke WordPress themes with the Relevanssi search plugin. Intranet A has some custom code to integrate documents into search results.

So, fasten your seatbelts for a bumper ride through 21 of my top intranet search queries, typical of any government departmental intranet. Screenshots show page 1 of the search results for the two different intranets. I’ve anonymised the results where appropriate.

1. Book a meeting room

Grab that room while it’s still vacant. The room booking facility is a top ranker for office-based staff. Or is it?

Intranet A: book a meeting room
Intranet A: book a meeting room
Intranet B: book a meeting room
Intranet B: book a meeting room
2. Eye test

One of my personal favourites. You fill out a form, send it to HR. They send you a voucher. You take it to the optician when you get your annual eye test. All paid for by Her Majesty’s ever-so generous Government.

Intranet A: eye test
Intranet A: eye test
Intranet B: eye test - goes direct to required page
Intranet B: eye test – goes direct to required page

3. Maternity leave

You’re pregnant. You’ve got a lot to think about and plan for. Wouldn’t it be nice if your intranet gave you the facts straight?

Intranet A: maternity leave
Intranet A: maternity leave
Intranet B: maternity leave
Intranet B: maternity leave

4. Guidelines on blogging

For review, before you boldy put finger to keyboard.
Intranet A: guidelines on blogging
Intranet A: guidelines on blogging
Intranet B: guidelines on blogging
Intranet B: guidelines on blogging

5. Replace my building pass

You went for that *just one drink* after work and you arrive at the office the next day knowing you’re in the shit.

Intranet A: replace my building pass
Intranet A: replace my building pass
Intranet B: replace my building pass
Intranet B: replace my building pass

6. Claim expenses

You’ve been for that glorious, 3-night stay in Sunningdale.
Intranet A: claim expenses
Intranet A: claim expenses
Intranet B: claim expenses
Intranet B: claim expenses

7. GPC

For those of you who don’t work in government or who don’t speak acronym, this is the Government Procurement Card. A credit card for the responsible people with a grand spending power. To be fair, it’s an acronym that is commonly used.
Intranet A: gpc
Intranet A: gpc
Intranet B: gpc
Intranet B: gpc

8. Rail tickets

Online booking please; it’s digital by default!
Intranet A: rail tickets
Intranet A: rail tickets
Intranet B: rail tickets
Intranet B: rail tickets

9. Induction for new staff

A must-have for every intranet. How do you welcome your new joiners?
Intranet A: induction for new staff
Intranet A: induction for new staff
Intranet B: induction for new staff
Intranet B: induction for new staff

10. Gifts and hospitality

Yup, even that bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream you got at Christmas from the agency you worked with, you gotta declare it.

Intranet A: gifts and hospitality
Intranet A: gifts and hospitality
Intranet B: gifts and hospitality
Intranet B: gifts and hospitality

11. Voicemail

How to setup your friendly recording to play to your beloved colleagues when you can’t be arsed to pick up.
Intranet A: voicemail
Intranet A: voicemail
Intranet B: voicemail
Intranet B: voicemail

12. Box times

Is this something to do with the diet coke advert? No, it’s the deadline for submitting something to a minister before they slope off for a nice Sancerre.
Intranet A: box times
Intranet A: box times
Intranet B: box times
Intranet B: box times

13. Wisleblowing

How good does your search engine deal with typos?
Intranet A: wisleblowing
Intranet A: wisleblowing
Intranet B: wisleblowing
Intranet B: wisleblowing

14. Written Ministerial Statements

Terribly exciting stuff, I know. Such is the life of a Civil Servant.
Intranet A: written ministerial statements
Intranet A: written ministerial statements
Intranet B: written ministerial statements
Intranet B: written ministerial statements

15. Risk register

For your Queen of Prince II or your agile scrum master, who’ll need to be armed with one of these.
Intranet A: risk register
Intranet A: risk register
Intranet B: risk register
Intranet B: risk register

16. Translate into Welsh

Intranet A: translate into welsh
Intranet A: translate into welsh
Intranet B: translate into welsh - goes direct to required page
Intranet B: translate into welsh – goes direct to required page

17. Whistleblowing

For those moments when you just have to do the right thing.
Intranet A: whistleblowing
Intranet A: whistleblowing
Intranet B: whisteblowing - goes direct to required page
Intranet B: whisteblowing – goes direct to required page

18. Payslip

The intranet, filled with topics closest to your heart.
Intranet A: payslip
Intranet A: payslip
Intranet B: payslip
Intranet B: payslip

19. Season ticket loan

Can’t stand queuing for your ticket at the station? Get an annual ticket and pay it off in 10 easy monthly payday deductions.
Intranet A: season ticket loan
Intranet A: season ticket loan
Intranet B: season ticket loan
Intranet B: season ticket loan

20. T&S

Because we all need a little T&S.
Intranet A: t&s
Intranet A: t&s
Intranet B: t&s
Intranet B: t&s

21. Lunch menu

A guy walks into a restaurant and says to the waiter, “Can I see what you had on your menu three weeks ago?”
Intranet A: lunch menu
Intranet A: lunch menu
Intranet B: lunch menu
Intranet B: lunch menu

Analysis

So which intranet performed best and why? And how could we make improvements?

Content quality

There is only so much that a search engine can do. The quality of search results largely depends on the quality of the content. Garbage in, garbage out. The quality of the content on intranet B shines through in the search results. Pages are written in plain English using active language. Page titles are concise.

Documents in search results

In Intranet A, we see a profusion of documents in the results, often containing hyphens and dot docs and brackets and dates. Staff will find these hard to sift through because the sheer number of documents returned tends to cloud the search results.

In 2002, I decided to turn off documents in search results on the London Underground intranet, subscribing to the belief that if a document is important enough then there will be an HTML page that mentions it. Search results improved dramatically.

The number of results returned

A basic usability rule is that less choice improves efficiency. So it follows that fewer entries in the search results page will make it easier and faster for staff to make a choice. Few people will go past page 1.

Intranet A: 548 total results, 6 out of 20 searches with just one page of results

Intranet B: 195 total results, 16 out of 20 searches with just one page of results

Direct hits

Even better than less choice is not having to make a choice at all. For those searches that produce a single result, Intranet B will take staff direct to the page in question, skipping the search results page. Skipping the time taken to scan a search results page, make a choice and click. Intranet A has 18 results for an eye test. Just how many pages do you need on your intranet about getting an eye test? Just one.

Social content

Intranet A includes social content generated by staff in forums and crowdsourcing areas.

Intranet B only includes core intranet pages by default. For social content, staff need to search from within the forums.

While there is no question that social, staff-generated content is good for all sorts of reasons, including it in search results by default can cloud the results. In the examples above, on Intranet A, it would appear that searching for any financial information returns a post about a sports day event, consistently in first position.

I still believe that there is a definite line between corporate, official content and social, staff-generated content. And that each has its uses.

Context and design

Intranet A uses breadcrumbs to give context to the search result title. While this can be useful, it becomes a problem when the page title refers to an item 9 levels down in the structured navigation.

Intranet A shows no clear date information telling you when the page was updated and there is no snippet text to help give you the scent of what you’ll get if you click.

Intranet B shows the type of content, category and contextual information where appropriate. Date information varies upon the type of content, so for example, we’ll show the last modified date for tasks but the first published date for news stories.

Content housekeeping

It’s really up to content publishers to make sure that old information isn’t left lying around. Regular housekeeping and clear procedures can help to keep search results free from useless information. So if you publish a lunch menu each week, why not keep the URL the same so that staff can bookmark the page and always return to it? Why publish multiple versions of the document with different URLs and include them all in search results when they become redundant?

Configuration

While I would say that content is the main area that you can use to improve search results, there is a fair bit that you can do behind the scenes to configure how the search engine works. Do you promote more recent content? Do you provide synonyms for words? What about search suggestions on typos or demoting old news stories? How does using an AND search compare to using an OR search?

Advanced search and filtering

Nice to note that neither intranet uses advanced search or filtering. In my experience of user testing, such options only add confusion. It is rare that you’ll get a member of staff wanting to do complex searches. The majority don’t need it, and including it only serves to provide yet more choice.

Conclusion

A budget search solution combined with tip-top content can produce very good search results, making it faster to find guidance and information and making staff more productive.

How do your top searches perform?

Related blogposts

Guide to creating effective intranet news stories

Rule of thirdsNews articles generally have three text components. Headline, teaser and body copy. As with any other intranet content, they need to be edited and tweaked before publication.

Headlines

The basic rules for good web writing and SEO apply here. Keep your headlines short. Frontload and aim to get your message across in the first few words. Don’t start with words like “A” and “The” and don’t try a clever play on words that forces the reader to think.

Here are some examples taken from the BBC website. Note how few words they use to get across a very good scent of the story behind them.

  1. Heroin ‘worth £10m’ found at flat
  2. Further swine flu cases confirmed
  3. Police ‘failed’ custody death man
  4. Medic criticises eBay drug sales
  5. Routine aspirin benefits queried
  6. Many autism cases ‘undiagnosed’
  7. UK transplants ‘at record high’
  8. Malaria parasites ‘resist drugs’
  9. Late abortion tribunal challenge

Of course, most intranet news headlines hopefully aren’t as dramatic as these, but you get the point.

Headlines in search results

For news listings and archive pages where headlines are seen in some kind of date context, the example headings above would work fine. As they would for the content heading on the actual news article. For search results listings, you may want to consider the date implications. News on the intranet goes stale as soon as it is published. For staff who encounter news articles through search results, it’s helpful to have an associated date near the clickable headline title.

For routine update messages which typically have the same headline text every time, dates are especially helpful for distinguishing them apart. In these cases it can help to add date context to the HTML title metadata (rather than the H1 body content heading) so that it appears as part of the headline in search result listings. Avoid words like “today” or “next week” as these won’t make sense next month.

Teaser

I like to think of teaser text as the snippet in Google search results or perhaps an informative tweet. Teasers need to provide a neat, compact summary of what the story is about. It’s debatable whether the teaser should be used as the first paragraph in the news article itself. Some say that reading the teaser and then clicking through to the news story only to read it again is wasting time. But as we shall see below, the first paragraph of the article should contain a summary of the article, since people landing on the story from a link on another intranet page or perhaps a staff email also need to get the scent of the story.

Body copy

Usual rules for online writing apply. Keep things short.  Chunk up text into paragraphs. Again, avoid now-centric words like “today” and be specific about dates. It’s best to keep online articles to a digestible chunk. I’ve used a guideline of 250 words before but it depends on the organisation, type of news story and format. But remember, people don’t like to read online.

The first paragraph should sum up the article so that readers know what the story is about. Using the tried and tested techniques of writing who, what, when, where, why is a good starting point for planning the rest of the article.

If the article has anything to do with core content on the intranet, then link to that page or document. News stories should not be the place to store core intranet content such as forms, documents and guidance because news is transitory and gets shunted into the archives.

To get effective analytics I have found it best to encourage the reader to click elsewhere on the intranet from news stories and announcements by linking to another page or document or by supplying thematic tags for similar stories. Links to related news stories are a great way of increasing serendipity and deepening understanding of core issues.

If people arrive at a story, read it and do nothing else then your bounce rate goes up and you don’t get accurate timings because there is no end time to track.

Graphics

You’ll generally need a few different sizes for your images, based on the different locations that they will appear throughout the intranet. Thumbnails appear in listings. A main image appears on the article page itself, and then you have feature images which might appear in a homepage carousel or as part of full-size pop-up photos in a thumbnail gallery.

You’ll need to crop and resize your original photos and maybe apply colour correction and sharpen or blur areas to give focus and depth of field. As far as sizes go, squares and rectangles are the norm. But avoid designing feature photos to be letterbox shaped. It is really hard to constantly have to source and edit photos for a target size that does not suit the majority of digital material that is typically supplied for a story, such as portrait shots of people, signage and logos.

For composition, a great place to start for news story photos is the rule of thirds. Now an option on smartphones when taking photos, the screen is split by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Cropping and resizing photos to fit this frameworks produces the best results and the rule applies for portrait, landscape and square images. Check Google images rule of thirds photography for some visual examples.

Thumbnails

You’ll normally use thumbnail images on news streams and archive listing pages, and occasionally they are seen in search results. The general rule of thumb(!) is that the graphic content should be clear and obvious. Text should be large enough to read. People should be recognisable. Objects should be obvious.

People

For thumbnails of faces it’s usually pretty easy to follow the rule of thirds. Crop and resize images so that the eyes fall into the top two intersections, the mouth follows the bottom line and the face can fit nicely into the two vertical lines. It’s ok to chop off bits.

Poor rule of thirds
Thumbnail face #1
Poor rule of thirds

Shot #1 does not follow the rule very well. The eyes are centred in the image instead of being on the top line of thirds. The photo has been cropped so that the chin ends exactly at the bottom and gives a sense of being boxed in.

Good rule of thirds
Thumbnail face #2
Good rule of thirds

Shot #2 is much better, following the rule of thirds beautifully. And another nice touch is that the eyes are looking to our right. This is good for news stories that have thumbnails on the left and heading/teasers to the right. It’s the other way around for thumbnails on the right.

The idea is that, as humans, when we interact with other people, we naturally follow their line of sight. Go on, try it next time you’re talking with someone. If you look at something else, their eyes will follow. And the theory is that this works with these kinds of thumbnail images, drawing you in to read the headline and teaser. Of course, a listing filled with faces turned to the right will look a bit forced – but we can intermingle thumbnails of faces with other types of imagery. The listing below shows a selection of stories using right-facing faces/eyes – they didn’t originally all appear together.

Face thumbnails - eyes right
Face thumbnails – eyes right

Group shots

Scenes of group events or team photos work great when you have a gallery of images that you can blow up and scroll. But for listing pages and search results, thumbnails need to be treated differently.

Group shot 1
Group shot #1
Group shot #2
Group shot #2

Thumbnails that have been created by simply shrinking a full-size group photo are not effective. They produce a splurge of tiny people and faces that are not distinctive and they don’t tell much about the story – apart from it’s a group of people.  In shots #1 and #2 we don’t really get a good idea of what’s happening or who they are.

Group shot #3 (zoomed)
Group shot #3
(zoomed)

For groups, it’s generally best to pick a relevant/smiley face with an object that is pertinent to the story and zoom in for a closeup. Shot #3 was taken from a group shot and it’s quite clear that we’re talking about some kind of award.

In shot #1 we could have zoomed in on some of the delicious food or a candle. For shot #2 a close-up of a smiley face looking right would do a treat.

Feature images

Feature images may appear on intranet homepages, in carousels, news articles or photo galleries. Use the rule of thirds in your composition where possible. Crop and resize photos to show the real focus of the story. For group shots, make sure you supply a blow up image so that readers can actually see who is in the photo. And remember to apply compression to final images to get the file size down, and use the appropriate graphic format.

Housekeeping

A good file-naming convention and folder structure can help with the behind-the-scenes activities around news stories. Dates in URLs are a good start. You can also use keyword tags and any CMS will output the title of the article as part of the URL.

To measure readership and engagement it’s important to have web analytics in place for tracking news stories. For working with statistics and producing regular analytics reports, URLs with dates will help when you want to filter stories for a specific time period.

URLs with dates can also help when you want to bias search results to favour more recent stories.

Remove stories and announcements that have truly died after a certain date so that they don’t clog up search results. This is easy if you can set an expiry date in your CMS. For example, do I really need to know about an IT service outage from two years ago if I’m searching for information about service outages over the coming weekend?

If I were an internal communicator…

Across the whole organisation there is a massive transformation programme running to save money and improve services. It’s been cooking since before the spending review in various guises. Internal campaigns having come and gone and are making a comeback. How successful will they be this time?

Previous campaigns have been lacking in real content but filled with flashy logos, artwork and names, sweetie, names. Developed by internal comms people who think they work in a PR agency, the relentless promotion of the programme name and logo swiftly goes the way of banner adverts blinking at you from the top of a web page. You just switch off.

The comms strategy this time round is not much different and continues to promote the brand and programme everywhere possible, including (the declining) news stories on the intranet, engagement and ideation projects, television channels at HQ, staff magazines, gung-ho groups, email newsletters and the intranet homepage. And again, there is very little substance in terms of meaningful information.

We’ve been here before and I remember being so annoyed last time that I mocked up a new intranet homepage with a massive programme logo filling the screen, leading to a page which said “more information coming soon.” Constantly being told to “change, save money and transform” like a stuck record when it’s not clear what you are expected to do does not make for a successful campaign.

In traditional project management, back in the day, I remember project managers appearing with their mile long Gantt charts and proudly slapping them on the table. Of course, everyone around the table is thinking “What’s in it for me? Where’s my bit?” and it only becomes useful when broken down into the bits and pieces that affect you. Bitesize user stories make sense.

A few weeks ago, strategically placed while I’m queuing for coffee, I saw a wide popup display that looked pretty similar to those old project management charts. Branded with the fabulous programme logo, naturellement. Lines and milestones going left to right, up and down the length of the coffee queue with diddy writing that I can’t read. And curious about this monstrosity that had been created, I walked, as one does between paintings in a gallery, from end to end of the display, trying to work it out. The years run from 2010 into the future across the top. Down the left are 20 or 30 items with different colour codes and writing so small that you need to get up very close in order to read it, meaning that you lose orientation from the bigger picture. And it’s all so high-level and overarching that none of it means anything. Disengage. Switch off. #fail

The same spawn-of-gantt-monster appeared later in a multi-page PDF document to go on the intranet, with a caveat not to make the document printable. So now it’s impossible to make sense of if you try to read it on screen, and you lose all hope of being able to understand it should you actually want to print it. But hey, it’s been communicated. Tick!

We know from email marketing that audience segmentation gets the best click through rates. We know that analysing data by splitting into chunks is more meaningful than looking at the big picture. We know that projects work best by breaking down into bitesize pieces. If I were tasked with communicating the programme to the organisation I would break down the programme, section off the tasks and priorities that affect my different audiences and communicate tailored messages to each audience segment. So that as a member of staff, when I get a message, it’s personal to me. It affects the building I work in, the department or team that I work in. It calls for my expertise in helping with a specific problem. It engages me.

Of course if it were possible to use digital solutions to engage staff without being hampered by out of date IT platforms and restrictive information security policies then my campaign could be even more effective. But let’s concentrate on the things that we can change.

Internal communications is more than designing a pretty logo, sending an email or shoving a document on the intranet and ticking a box to say that the you have communicated. Senior managers should demand evaluation, proof and statistics to show that something is happening as a result of the comms. And sending a survey that asks whether I’ve heard of the programme really doesn’t glean any business intelligence. Of course I’ve heard of the programme – I get spammed with it at every opportunity.

Apologies to @sharonodea for the #keepcalm reference – just seemed appropriate.

12 signs of an untrained intranet publisher

C lick her eHere are some common signs that your site content has been written by someone who has never been trained how to write for an online audience and is unaware of search engine optimisation or visitors using accessible technology.

1) The page title of you homepage is “Home

The word home, on its own, as a search result or in a browser tab title, doesn’t tell me anything about who you are or what you do, apart from the fact that you can’t be bothered to introduce yourself correctly.

2) The page title of your about us page is “About us

About who? I still don’t know who you are.

3) The first word on your page is Welcome

What’s the most important thing that I might want to do or need to know on this page? Put that first.

4) You write long introductory paragraphs of detail about what you do on your main section pages

I came to your section of content because I wanted to do something. I don’t want to hear about everything you do, how you do it, why you do it, how well you do it and how you’re trying to “serve my needs” every time that I visit your section. What’s the most important thing that I might want on this page? Put that first.

5) You use capital letters in your page headings

It’s hard to read lines of capital text on a screen. It really won’t get more clicks in search results. And it’s considered rude to shout online.

6) You use underlined text to emphasise what you want to say

Online, underline means a hyperlink. Don’t use it on HTML pages or in documents.

7) You use bold text for section headings

Use HTML heading tags H1, H2 etc. and document styles Heading 1, Heading 2 etc.

8) You’ve never accessed the File, Properties menu in Microsoft Word

This is where you enter your metadata. Page title, keywords, description. Takes about 20 seconds to do. Makes a helluva difference.

9) You mention a document in your page text and then write “To download it click here

Most people scan web pages when they read online. An underlined link that reads “Click here” makes me have to wade through the surrounding text because there is no indication where I will go if I click here. Link text must be descriptive.

10) To update an existing document, you add a new document

By leaving older versions of documents online you make your visitors waste time in trying to find the correct document and risk people using the wrong document. Use the existing filename/URL so that links don’t break and visitors can return from bookmarks and other sites.

11) You take a graphic, slap it into a page or document, then resize the graphic

Compress images to get a balance between the smallest file size and best image quality. This means using the most appropriate graphic format and working to precise pixel dimensions. Smaller files means faster downloads means happier visitors.

12) You use your own favourite typeface and colours so that your content will stand out

It will. Especially if it’s 24pt Comic Sans in Barbie Pink.

 

Related posts

 

System status and vanity intranet pages

One of my favourite metrics when measuring improvement on the intranet is the number of calls to the helpdesk. It’s a sure sign of success when you’ve done a few changes to an area of the intranet and the number of helpdesk calls goes down.

Conversely, you know that something is wrong when the number of helpdesk calls goes up.

We were recently approached by our IT department to talk about creating a system status page on the intranet with the goal of reducing calls to the helpdesk due to people being unaware that the problem has already been reported.

When you call our helpdesk, there is often a recorded message before you get through to the lovely list of numbers that you need to press to actually talk to somebody. The recorded message is there to let you know that some problems have already been reported and not to bother reporting them again.

So I was pleased to see this move to help users by moving the recorded announcements to an intranet page. I did my usual research to get a background feel of the situation and it turns out there are about 230 applications that would be included in the mix. I also noted that on an average day there are about 3 to 5 applications down out of the 230.

I have to work with developers within the digital team to create a solution for getting these status updates onto the intranet. So I’m listening to the needs of the IT department who will have to manually publish updates, thinking about the intranet and system users and also thinking how we are going to implement this using our flat publishing intranet CMS.

The IT team had already done some of their own designs as to how they thought this should work on the intranet. The designs looked like a flight control room with a whole page of categorised boxes containing red and green dots and a big banner with our IT helpdesk provider’s logo at the top. No navigation, no intranet template and presumable 230 of the apps somehow appearing all at once on the page.

So I started again and came up with some fleshed out wireframes, fitting into the intranet navigation structure and design style, showing just a list of current problems in the body content section of the template. No red or green dots, just a list of what is down today. Clicking an application would expand to show the detailed problem information.

But this didn’t go down well with IT. They wanted to demonstrate how well they were doing by showing all the green dots too. My mockup showed just 5 systems down. Simple and usable. They wanted to make users go through a list of 230 items to find which systems are up or down.

So I ask myself. Will I really go and check an intranet page before using an application? The list of 230 apps includes email, intranet and all the things I use daily. It also includes some of the bigger systems such as our HR self-service application which fortunately I rarely have to use.

Do I need to know which systems are working? Will I check the system status intranet page before trying to access a system? Before I try to use my email? It’s not like the tube where if I check to see that a line is up and running then I know not to make other plans for travelling. And even when they say that there is a good service on all lines, I don’t believe them or I know that it doesn’t stop something going wrong between now and when I get to the station or halfway through my journey. But at work I’m sat at my desk with a computer. If I want to use an application on my desktop I’ll go ahead and try to use it. I won’t go to a page on the intranet just to check that it is working first. But that’s just me. The IT team came up with a use case that people needed to check system status beforehand because some systems were slow to boot up and login to. Really? Ever thought of making your systems work better? Again and again I see this patch-up mentality where rather than fixing a problem people try to compensate by uploading videos or complex pages of explanations.

IT systems are one of those service functions that people shouldn’t have to jump with joy about when they actually work. People only notice when something goes wrong. Like so much of my usability work, the success is measured by how much people don’t notice the technology or the application and can just complete the task in hand that enables them to get on with their job.

So the latest state of play is that they now want to display just 30 of the top applications using red, amber and green traffic lights. I argue that this just complicates things further because now even if I do bother to go to the page to check if my system is up, what if it’s not one of the top 30 and doesn’t appear on the list. Is my system up or down? I don’t know, so I’m going to call the helpdesk. Aside from the obvious accessibility issues with using traffic light colours to portray meaning, what does amber mean? The application that I want to use only half works?

I’m really interested to hear how others feel about this. Is there a case for exception-reporting and only showing what doesn’t work. Are there examples of traffic light systems working and do staff really go and check something works before using it or only after trying to use it?

I’m also feeling the self-promotion and vanity publishing issue again on the intranet. As the culture is changing in my workplace and I see more and more staff feeling that they have to justify their existence by claiming credit for every bit of work they can and promoting what they do, we are getting more and more requests for vanity-waffle pages on the intranet, spouting “what we do” verbiage but which contain no task-related or usable content. There is a threat on the intranet with a move from “how can I serve the users” to “how can I protect and promote myself and my department.” And the trouble is that this mindset is coming down from up above for the same reasons.

As with what is happening with central government websites, it’s not important that I know what department to go to in order to complete a task on the intranet. I just want to get the task done. And while I recognise that staff do need to know the greater structure and goals of the organisation, which we do include on the intranet, we don’t need to know the ins and outs of each and every one of the teams and departments which change, rename and transform so often that you couldn’t keep up with them if you tried. And if they had anything important to offer staff it would already be in the guidance section of the intranet.

It will be interesting to follow how this issue pans out. But I guess that the ultimate test is whether those helpdesk calls go down and whether staff give us good feedback.