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2 Tips To Help Users Find Content On Your Intranet


As you’re building a corporate intranet, such as SharePoint Online, you’ll need to focus on information architecture. In other words, how is your organization going to build and present all of your information?

Here are two tips to help users find content on your intranet:

  1. Logical vs. physical information architecture: With any content management system, you need to determine how you’re going to structure your information. And that means having a design that aligns two different information structures, which could be called the logical and physical information architecture.The logical side essentially focuses on the user’s mental model for understanding the information. How do your users think about the relationships between information on your intranet, and how would they expect it to be categorized? From this perspective, good information architecture meets those user expectations for categorization, making it easy to access the information they need.The most popular method for gaining an understanding of this logical side is through a card-sorting exercise. When you go to a website and see the titles for the global navigation, that hierarchy was most likely guided by card-sorting exercises. Card sorting is often used to develop navigation, taxonomy design and other elements. It’s a way to build an information architecture that aligns with users’ ideas and expectations about how something works in the real world, often called a “mental model.”You could think of it this way: The logical question is, “How do I design a navigation structure?” That question is essentially answered through card sorting.Here’s how a card-sorting exercise works: An information architect looks at the content on your intranet and creates 40 to 60 different cards, each representing a different type of content, such as an HR form. From there, users are asked to look at all these cards with different types of information and group them in ways that make the most sense, and then assign each group a heading. This organization exercise gives the information architect a sense of how the user sees the content, providing a good starting point for the information architecture.But the information architect also has to build information architecture within a CMS like SharePoint, and every CMS has a physical component with specific configuration requirements. The physical question is, “How do I build it in SharePoint?” SharePoint provides its own physical information architecture in terms of how it handles search, for example, and metadata classification systems, which it refers to as content types. Many of these design approaches are based on industry best practices, but they’re only useful when used in the appropriate context.

    The key is to infuse research and insights into the CMS-specific application, instead of jumping right into designing the physical information architecture. Start with understanding how your users think about and categorize information before looking at the best ways to use SharePoint in order to meet user expectations.

  2. Migrating content: When you’re ready to migrate content from a file share, CMS or previous SharePoint intranet to your new site, a common mistake is to think of migration as just an upgrade in which you move all of your content from one platform to another across versions. Taking that approach essentially means you’re packing up your existing mess and bringing it with you.Migrations are the best time to rethink how you’re structuring information, whether you’re moving from version to version or from an on-premises solution to SharePoint Online. Before you start a wholesale transfer from SharePoint on-premises to SharePoint Online, for example, conduct a ROT analysis, which stands for redundant, outdated and trivial. By flagging and trimming content that you don’t want to bring into the new solution, you’re able to improve the performance and success of your new intranet.

When you ensure good information architecture, users are more likely to use the intranet to store and find information critical to the organization.

Learn more about the keys to a successful intranet implementation by downloading our free e-book, “Designing A User-Centered Intranet For SharePoint Online”.


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