The purpose of this document is to record findings from the intranet best practice analysis activity conducted by the IA Strategy project team in September – October 2008.
This document is not an analysis of the “as is” intranet environment at DHS. Also, this document is not a discussion on how the best practices outlined in this document should be applied to the DHS setting. Throughout the IA Strategy project, and in particular during design phases of the project, the best practices outlined in this document will be used as a reference point. This will help to ensure the work produced by the IA Strategy project meets recognised best practices in the intranet sector.
The IA Strategy project team conducted this best practice analysis activity to build on the preliminary best practice analysis work undertaken for the WMAS project (see the Web Governance Model Implementation Plan document).
Desktop research was conducted to produce the best practices outlined in this document. Due to time limitations, the project team selected to focus time and research efforts on the work of experts who are highly respected in the intranet sector such as:
Jakob Nielsen (User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group)
Louis Rosenfeld (independent information architecture consultant, and founder and publisher of Rosenfeld Media, a publishing house focused on user experience books)
Gerry McGovern (widely regarded as the number one worldwide authority on managing web content as a business asset) and
James Robertson (Managing Director of Step Two Designs).
A list of research sources consulted can be found in appendix 6.
In addition, Stamford has drawn on extensive previous experience creating and redeveloping some of the largest intranets in the country. Stamford has led the intranet redesign process for such organisations as ANZ, the Australian Communication and Media Authority, the Australian Taxation Office, Vanguard Financial Services, Centrelink, La Trobe University, Monash University, Melbourne Water, the Federal Department of Treasury and Air Services Australia among others.
This document includes the following sections:
Executive summary – provides a summary of the best practices outlined in this document.
Introduction (this section) – provides an overview to the document.
Background – provides a background to the IA Strategy project.
Intranet best practice principles – this section details the intranet best practice principles identified through the best practice analysis.
Appendix – supporting information for this document.
The intended audience for this document is the Web Domain Group and any other interested parties.
3.1What is the IA Strategy Project?
The focus of the Information Architecture (IA) Strategy Project is, in conjunction with the deliverables from the Web Management Architecture and Standards Project, to transform DHS’s web service delivery model.
This project complements all the activities that have either taken place or are currently underway through achieving the following:
Development of a thematic DHS website architecture for the entire DHS web presence (including Internet and Intranet) through stakeholder consultation and analysis, investigation of best practice, and analysis of other government initiatives.
In consultation with stakeholders, development of high level and detailed Information Architectures which meet the needs of users, as well as an appropriate IA Maintenance Strategy and Style Guide which will ensure that these needs are continually maintained.
An understanding of user requirements for interactive tools such as e-Forms and search capability.
Validation of the new Information Architecture by undertaking user walkthroughs and other iterative design activities including the development of mock-ups and visual designs.
4.Intranet Best Practice Principles
This section details the intranet best practice principles identified through the best practice analysis. It consists of:
Intranet versus internet design – identifies the different factors that impact the design and management of an intranet versus and internet site.
Methodology best practices – outlines best practices in the process used to design intranets.
Design best practices - outlines best practices in the design of intranets
Governance and management - outlines best practices in the ongoing governance and management of intranets.
Because the majority of the IA strategy project scope is focused on the design of DHS’ future intranet, the design best practices section of this document is the most thorough and comprehensive section.
4.1Internet versus intranet design
There are more differences than similarities between an organisation’s intranet and internet website. These have a considerable impact on the design and structure of the sites, as well as the tools and processes used to maintain them.
While both internet and intranet sites are both browser delivered systems, there are unique factors to take into consideration when designing1
Users differ. An organisation’s internet site is used by external users who will know much less about the organisation. Intranet users are staff who tend to be more familiar with the organisation, its structure, and special jargon and conditions than external users.
The tasks differ. Intranet users user the intranet for everyday work; an internet site is mainly used to support external users needs.
The type of information differs. An intranet may have many guidelines, procedures, reports, HR information, and other detailed information, whereas an internet site will have content written for external clients and users.
The amount of information differs. Typically, an intranet has between ten and a hundred times as many pages as the same company's public website. The difference is due to the extensive amount of work-in-progress that is documented on the intranet and the fact that many projects and departments never publish anything publicly even though they have many internal documents.
Bandwidth and cross-platform needsdiffer. Intranets often run over an internal network which is faster than most internet users' web access, so it can be feasible to more use bandwidth-intensive content on intranet pages. Also, it is sometimes possible to control what computers and software versions are supported on an intranet, meaning that designs need to be less cross-platform compatible (again allowing for more advanced page content).
James Robertson from Step Two Designs has compiled the following table2 to summarise the differences in the design and management of an organisation’s intranet and internet sites: