I’m going to talk to you about an approach to building new navigation menus for the Fairtrade Foundation Intranet
The Fairtrade Foundation is a registered charity and the UK member of Fairtrade International.
It’s based in London and has around 90 staff plus 20-30 volunteers at any one time
You can read more on its website (www.fairtrade.org.uk/What-is-Fairtrade/Who-we-are)
This is what the Intranet homepage and navigation looked like in 2017.
Hidden from view in this screenshot is the footer with the ‘Quick links’, and the Fairtrade Facebook and blog feeds.
There’d been the usual feedback from staff that information was difficult to find and wasn’t all up to date. The social ‘Coffee Corner’ wasn’t being used.
The Intranet Owner felt that the Intranet had the potential to help staff improve their knowledge of Fairtrade’s work.
Other business drivers included the need to make staff more aware of the new travel process so that trips abroad could be better co-ordinated to save money.
But – this was a project on a ‘shoestring’.
The project is only a tiny part of the Intranet Owner’s day job and I volunteer on one day a week, so we had to reduce user research to the absolute basics.
We obviously wanted to make sure that the new navigation menus would make sense to users, so I started by researching card sorting and tree testing techniques for some guidance.
I then made a list of the main topics that I found on the old Intranet, in the shared folders, and on the Fairtrade Foundation website.
I made my own attempt at categorising these topics, then gave the list to the Intranet Owner to do the same.
This is part of her annotated list - as she had a better understanding of Fairtrade’s work and the organisation, she could advise on some of the acronyms etc.
We produced a finalised list of about 70 topics.
Ideally, we would have invited selected staff to a workshop to group these topics into categories, using post-it notes, for example. However, as they were all very busy and this was difficult to organise, we sent them the list on a spreadsheet instead, asking them to do the categorisation on their own and return it to us.
I collated their attempts at card sorting in a spreadsheet.
I also mapped the potential Intranet content that I’d found, to these headings and sub-headings, to check that it was roughly right.
The second spreadsheet extract shows work in progress on a couple of Knowledge Hub sub-menus.
I then went on to produce a ‘best fit’ draft navigation structure for testing.
There were of course some topics that were difficult to categorise and label, so we used these as the basis for drafting the Tree Testing tasks.
The challenging – and what I found to be the fun part - was describing these tasks without using the words in the navigation labels, so as not to lead the user down that particular route.
I prepared a ‘grid’ in a Word document where I could record the steps that the user took through each task and their subsequent attempts if they didn’t find the answer the first time.
We arranged hour-long individual user interviews with six staff, who had different roles and experience of the organisation.
This was the redesigned version of the homepage that we used for the Tree testing. I’ve expanded the HR & Volunteering sub-menus in this screenshot as an example.
For the ‘Knowledge Hub’ menu we used pre-existing labels where possible, and simplified them to be more meaningful to other staff.
At the start of the interview I asked the user some general background questions related to their use of the Intranet. I also asked them what sort of information that they would expect to see under each navigation heading.
Before starting the Tree Testing exercises I stressed that this wasn’t testing them, but the navigation structure that we’d drafted.
I asked them to talk through their selections of navigation menus and sub-menus as they went along. This helped me to understand their thought process.
Just something to be aware of, as users work their way through the tree testing exercises, the navigation menus will become more familiar to them, so this will start to play a part in their selections.
After each session I wrote up my notes. Then, when they were all completed, I looked for common problems that the users had experienced.
Just a few examples from the Tree testing that I carried out before the launch and at a later stage:
1. There was a ‘Logistics’ page under the ‘Office Administration’ menu in the test version of the Intranet. This included things like booking accommodation for producers visiting the UK.
What we found was that users tended to look under the ‘UK and Overseas Travel’ menu, so we moved this content and changed the menu labels.
2. Interestingly, the way that staff read the label ‘Staff Support and Benefits’ with the emphasis on ‘Staff Support’ seemed to imply something different from what we intended, so reversing it to ‘Staff Benefits and Support’ instead, could actually work out better.
3. I had included information about ‘Internal Communication’ on a test page which gave background information about the organisation, but some users looked for this under the ‘Office’ menu.
4. Finance had previously been included under ‘Office Administration’ but it was found to be better with own separate heading.
This is how the homepage looked when we launched the redesigned Intranet in February. (I’ve had to redact some of the sensitive information which is why there are gaps.)
There was a decision to remove the ‘Teams’ menu, but we still need to work on making it easier for users to find out ‘Who does what’ across the organisation.
The post-launch user feedback was good and it was seen by staff as an improvement on the old intranet.
One disappointment has been that we haven’t been able to develop the Knowledge Hub as fully as we intended, due to the lack of staff resources in the teams that would own that content.
The Intranet is still very much a work in progress and I’m always looking for ways to improve the user experience.
I’ve been pleased to have the opportunity to work with an HR colleague on her project to review the Induction process and Welcome Pack.
She and I interviewed some new starters. She found it fascinating to observe the tree testing of the proposed new Intranet pages. We both gained insights into the new starters’ job roles and how they would use the Intranet.
This is probably stating the obvious, but just to summarise the things that I’ve learnt:
Be realistic Be realistic about the resources that are available.
With hindsight, a RASCI analysis would have been helpful to make sure that resources were committed to maintaining Intranet content.
We’ve also had to be adaptable and deliver the project in manageable phases.
Focus on Content We focused on the content, keeping the design simple and using same familiar WordPress template from the old Intranet.
Look for quick wins I would recommend trying to identify key user and business needs that are relatively straightforward to address, so that you can add value and improve the user experience in the easiest and quickest ways.
Collaborate with other projects If you can, as we did, do make use of any labelling work that’s already been done – maybe in your shared folders, and look for opportunities to hook up with any other projects that could add value to the Intranet.
Understand your users We had to cut corners, but it would have been far better to spend more time interviewing users at the beginning to find out more about what their jobs involve, how they work, who they connect with, and what resources they need.
I’ve added this link as it has some advice for running projects in a rush which you should find helpful: http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/cmb_rush/
User research on a shoestring — Janet White
User research on a shoestring:
a fair attempt at an Intranet?
• Be realistic
• Focus on content
• Look for quick wins
• Collaborate with other projects
• Understand your users
A useful resource: