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Top Ten Internal Website Goofs

Top Ten Internal Website Goofs

by Frank Roche on September 6, 2006

in Communication, Top 10

Corporate internal websites can be useful, but are often headache inducing. Employees are required to use them, but are often unable to find what they need. It’s often the little things that break down. And we’ve seen them all. With that in mind, we assembed our list of the top ten internal website goofs:

10. Poorly scaled. Otherwise useful tools are not scaled up for use with thousands or tens of thousands of users. If the only way to find your meeting in your meeting organization software is to click ‘Next’ four or five times through the list of every meeting your company is having today, then the software simply isn’t scaled for the demand.

9. Inability to navigate without a mouse. Don’t get me wrong, computer mice are handy tools. But so is the keyboard. In fact, there are users who simply can’t or shouldn’t use the mouse (e.g., blind people and carpal tunnel sufferers, respectively). And, quite simply, there are employees who prefer to use their keyboard. Browser technology is sufficiently advanced that there’s no excuse for making a website unnavigable without a mouse.

8. Not cross-browser compliant. Internet Explorer may be your corporate standard, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other browsers users might want to use. Some browsers have disability-friendly tools (e.g., Firefox and Opera) that make it possible for users with disabilities to get around the internet. Don’t make it harder for them by making your site unusable by their tools of choice. Cross-browser compatibility can be difficult to achieve, and you’re always going to have to make some choices about which browsers you support, but more is better.

7. Inconsistent look and feel. You click a link on your corporate site, and you’re suddenly transported…somewhere. The logo’s the same, but the menu’s changed. Or the page title says it’s an internal department, but there’s nothing remotely similar in the look of the site to make you think it’s related to your company at all, let alone a part of the company. Not good. Users need to feel like they know where they are. When the look and feel of the site changes unexpectedly, it confuses your users.

6. Multiple navigation schemes. You’re looking for a link to today’s cafeteria menu. But is it in one of the many dizzying menus? One of those tab thingies? The quicklinks? Those sidepanels with extra info? Who knows? The more ways there are to organize info, the less likely you’ll be able to guess where your particular info is hiding.

5. Too much information on the front page. Too much info. Too many links. Tiny fonts. Too, too…busy. Company portals need to be scannable. No one has the time to or interest in reading everything available. Everyone’s just looking for the first link that catches their eye that could possibly be the thing their looking for. Sure, there’s a lot to your company, lots of information, and a lot of people to please. But the point of a portal isn’t to provide everything you possibly can squeeze in there. The point is to make a clear, easy starting point where employees will be able to navigate themselves to everything.

4. Poor role awareness. You see a link. It looks vaguely like what you’re looking for. You click it. You go to a page that says: “I’m sorry. You don’t have access to this feature.” Or maybe you get a popup with an error message. This is just not ok. Do not waste your user’s time. The user should never have access to a link to something he or she is not allowed to use. If they don’t have access, don’t give them something to click.

3. Missing information. This is especially problematic when combined with #5. A user can spend over a half an hour trying to hunt down info that should be there, but just isn’t. If your company offers a shuttle service, employees should be able to find the schedule. If you have a cafeteria, the hours it’s open should be easily available. If you provide an emergency weather phone number, it should be on your site.

2. No clear way to tell where I am. A complex portal website must have a clear and easy way to identify the user’s location in the portal. The portal should have breadcrumbs at the top of the page. The company logo should always be in the upper left corner, and should be a link to the home page for the portal. Links in the menu should not use different labels than the title of the page it will take you to. Every time you confuse your user, you slow him down. You slow your user down, they have less time for actual business concerns.

1. No clear way to find what I want. The biggest culprit of all is lame, poorly implemented, useless search. Your users need to be able to search or browse for what they want quickly and easily. So, you’re not Google. Fine. Hire them. Or spend some serious effort on making clear, clean browsing trees for your users to poke around in. When you go to a mall, and you don’t know where a store is, you check the mall map. When you go to a portal, and don’t know where your info is, you need a similarly straightforward way to navigate to that info.

Fundamentally, a portal should speed your users up. It should move them quickly to the info they want. It should be friendly to people with disabilities. It should be flexible to the myriad ways people do things. It shouldn’t get in their way, slow them down, or confuse them. After a half hour of battling with an uncooperative portal, your user is going to be tired, cranky, and uninterested in whatever it was they were originally doing. And that’s not good for business.

Want to learn more about good design? Consider the following resources:

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