Version of intranet review toolkit: 1.1 (March 2006)
About the intranet review toolkit
This intranet review toolkit provides intranet managers and designers with an easy-to-use method to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their intranet. It contains a substantial set of heuristics (guidelines or criteria), allowing a detailed intranet review to be conducted that focuses on a wide range of functionality, design and strategy.
The heuristics are based on identified best practices in intranet and website design, providing a sound basis for the review. Additional references are included as an appendix to this document.
When to conduct a review
The intranet review toolkit can be used at many stages of a project:
Before a redesign
A review can be conducted at the beginning of a redesign project. At this time, it will help to identify key problems that should be further examined during staff research and other redesign activities.
During a redesign
A review can be conducted while the design or redesign project is underway. It can act as a reminder about the most important aspects of the intranet design and allows issues to be rectified at an early stage.
On part of the intranet
Reviews do not need to be conducted against the entire intranet. Most of the heuristics apply equally as well to a section or smaller part of the intranet.
What are heuristics?
Heuristics are simple, efficient rules of thumb that can be used to make assessments. They are based on best practice and experience, and are easy to apply to many situations.
The heuristics used in the intranet review toolkit are based on core principles of information seeking behaviour, human-computer interaction and experiences drawn from training, research and design activities for corporate intranets. The heuristics are not an exhaustive list of all potential intranet issues, but are extensive enough to allow the identification of issues that have the largest impact on intranet usefulness and usability.
Each heuristic in the intranet review toolkit is necessarily quite broad. In assessing an intranet against them, the reviewer will need to make some judgements, including whether the heuristic is relevant for their situation. Some heuristics may not apply to every intranet, and some intranets may not meet all heuristics but still be useful and usable for staff.
About Step Two Designs
Step Two Designs (www.steptwo.com.au), the creator of this toolkit, are a vendor-neutral consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. They provide specialist consulting in the areas of intranets, content management, knowledge management, usability and information architecture.
Step Two Designs has published many articles on the topics of intranet design and management, and on related usability and information architecture techniques.
They have also published the Intranet Roadmap™, the Content Management Requirements Toolkit, and Staff Directories report.
Using this toolkit
The intranet review toolkit provides a template that can be used to guide a review and as a report on the review. Each heuristic has a detailed rationale, and space is provided for your comments and a score.
If you are closely involved with the intranet, as a designer or a manager, it may be difficult to conduct an unbiased assessment. It may be valuable to have someone else conduct the review, as an independent reviewer can more easily assess the intranet from the perspective of staff.
It can also be useful to conduct the review with multiple reviewers, such as intranet team members, key authors or other stakeholders. This will allow more issues to be identified and highlight the key issues. After each person conducts their review, a post-review meeting is a great way to discuss findings and determine what to follow up.
Preparing for the review
Before starting the review, become familiar with key pages of the intranet such as the home page, major section pages, most frequently used content, search facility, phone directory and news sections;
Walk through the most frequent tasks that staff carry out via the intranet. For example, you may need to:
This will help you better understand how well the intranet works in practice, when completing common business activities.
Note that it is not necessary to visit every page on the intranet. This is impractical on a large intranet, and even on a modest-sized intranet, it is sufficient to review enough pages to give an overall assessment of the intranet.
The overall goal of the intranet review is to identify key strengths and weaknesses of the intranet as a whole, rather than to identify specific pages which are poorly designed or non-compliant with appropriate standards.