Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Looking for Inspirations for your 2011 Intranet Initiative? (and musings about usability)

Have a good technology platform in one form or the other is no guarantee for Intranet success, even if your platform is leading in social. Intranets need to be usable. Memento bene: I say " usable" not " user friendly". I haven't seen "friendly" software, people are friendly (hopefully). Intranets (or any technology) needs to be fit for purpose and that's called "usable". A lot of times "usable" is perceived as rather "fluffy" description, However there is a clear description in ISO 9241:
  • Usability: Extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use
  • Effectiveness: Accuracy and completeness with which users achieve specified goals
  • Efficiency: Resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness with which users achieve goals.
  • Satisfaction: Freedom from discomfort, and positive attitudes towards the use of the product
In other words: Can your users do the right thing, error free, fast, complete and will they be pleased. I recall I once was discussing the design of an accounting package with a tax consultant. I mentioned that account numbers are really hard to memorise and that names would be better. However in the context of use (software for accounting professionals) and the specific users (data entry clerks) account numbers proved to be the superior solution. Users could keep one hand on the numeric keypad to enter data and the other hand was free to flip through the pages. Another example: If you know your commands well, the command line is actually a superior user experience (specified users: knowledgeable about commands) since it will perform given task fast and accurate and leave the users with that pleasant feeling of accomplishment. If you specify the users different (e.g. casual or clueless users) the command line becomes a nightmare and a wizard driven GUI might provide the best user experience. Already Tao Zhu Gong stated 400 BC as first business rule: "Know your people" in his art of trade.
Back to the Intranets. The Nielsen Norman Group just published the 2011 edition of their annual Intranet design competition. Reviewing the winners can serve as an excellent source of inspiration for your own initiative. Of course: don't copy blindly since your context of users, goals and outcomes most likely is different. And don't limit yourself to the latest edition. Reports are available for 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, Financial Service Intranets, Web 2.0 Intranets, Portals and many more. Jacob Nielsen's UseIT always is good for an entertaining read. The NNGroup Usability conference Hong Kong is surly worth a visit.

Posted by on 07 January 2011 | Comments (4) | categories: Software


  1. posted by Wayne on Friday 07 January 2011 AD:
    I am so glad you wrote this. Your example of data entry clerks using the numeric keypad is spot on.
    Not being able to use the enter key for field exit renders the numeric keypad useless in the notes client. Not being able to designate accelerator keys on buttons hinders experienced users who must either tab through all fields or move to the mouse to effect a click action.
    These are oversights that mar an otherwise fantastic product.

  2. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Friday 07 January 2011 AD:
    @Wayne: A little onKeyDown() magic (there's JavaScript support since R5) should be able to fix that.
    Emoticon biggrin.gif stw
  3. posted by Wayne on Saturday 08 January 2011 AD:
    Interesting, domino designer has the "Run" area grayed out, showing "web" for onkeydown. I didn't realize that it would still operate in the client.
    Thank you.
  4. posted by Wayne on Sunday 09 January 2011 AD:
    Update: onkeydown, onkeypress and onkeyup only work in javascript for the WEB not the notes client. I really wonder what the rational was for not implementing these features.
    (per Notes help: search for "javascript event descriptions" )