Archive for May, 2007

Web application design

May 30, 2007

I’ve just come across a book that looks quite interesting.

Designing the obvious: a common sense approach to web application design, by Robert Hoekman, jr.

I’m planning to read sometime this week and will let you know what I think.

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Content governance in a decentralised authoring environment

May 23, 2007

Many organisations are now implementing content management systems (CMS), which allow business departments to publish their own content. However, sustaining content usability in a decentralised authoring environment can be tricky and as such it is important that there is some kind of governance over the content that is published.

A comprehensive styleguide is crucial in setting standards and advising content contributors on how to present their content. Additionally, CMS technology is powerful in that most of them will allow for some kind of workflow to be implemented whereby content cannot be published until it has been approved.

However, even with these controls in place, how can an organisation be sure that the content contributors and approvers are following these guidelines and taking their role seriously? Most of the time it is not a full time role, it is an additional role to their job profile.

I have had numerous conversations about content governance and how best to implement it. One suggestion being that the web team as the managers of the website/intranet perform ‘dip tests’ whereby on an ad hoc basis they review content and if it doesn’t come up to scratch they can delete it.

I’m not convinced that this is particularly helpful. By deleting a department’s content, you will run into a number of conflicts and alienate the content contributors. A better way is encourage authors to follow the style guide and keep communication flowing between all content contributors so that they are aware of what else is being published, which will help avoid duplication and/or inconsistent messages.

This could be achieved by having a monthly forum of intranet editors which includes:

  • A review of what’s been published that month;
  • The web team can present tips and tricks for writing for the web and using the technology;
  • It gives contributors a chance feedback what they think works and doesn’t work to the web team; and
  • will allow them to develop their understanding of the overall purpose of the website and communication strategy/ brand etc and the importance of these to an organisation.

It’s never going to be just one thing…

May 14, 2007

A good search facility is essential to good usability. I am currently working on a project to improve the search facility of an intranet and we decided to buy Google mini as the technology that sits behind the scenes. Great – it’s a powerful tool, (aside from the authentication issues that we had a headache trying to get round due to the unusable and pretty useless help documentation that is provided with the product) however, we are now presented with the problem that the search is now so good that it is finding and displaying huge amounts of out of date content that has been published without meaningful titles. For example meeting minutes from 1998 with the heading [Enter title]!

So now we have a clean up operation. Time consuming and a cumbersome task, but not too much of a big deal. What is a big deal is where we go from here with content governance in a decentralised authoring environment.