We see the following progression happen far too often: organizations start out with high hopes for their intranet design projects, but when a working solution is actually delivered, users are quick to complain about it. This disappointment results from a failure to manage user expectations for the intranet, which sets up unrealistic expectations that could never be met.
Managing user expectations from the outset can help to avoid discontentment and even result in a better and more practical intranet coming out of the design process.
How Not to Approach Intranet Design
Sometimes, asking people what they want is not the best approach. In our experience, too many design processes begin by asking users what they want from the intranet, without placing any constraints on the suggestions people can make.
The problem with this approach is that it often results in an unrealistically long list of features that the new intranet solution should include, with no indication of how important these features are or whether they will actually solve the problems users face every day.
Even worse, this process of information gathering sets up unrealistic user expectations from the outset; people who were asked for their opinion can end up feeling annoyed if the ideas they suggested are not included in the final intranet design.
A Better Approach: Needs, Not Wants
A better approach is to uncover people's needs. Instead of asking users directly what they want, seek to identify their pain points when using the existing system and aim to solve those problems with the new design.
The next step is to identify which problems are most important. Without a clearly-defined list of priorities, there is a risk of trying to solve too many problems and not managing to solve any of them well.
When we help organizations put in place a custom or a ready-to-go intranet, our first task is to make sure that all stakeholders understand the constraints of the project.
These can include:
- Technical constraints - for example, there may be limits on the customizability of the environment, which can restrict the features that can be implemented.
Even if unlimited customization were possible, it's still a good idea to use out-of-the-box functionality wherever possible, so you don't waste time reinventing the wheel when a suitable ready-to-go intranet solution already exists.
Therefore, our first step is often to help stakeholders understand the out-of-the-box functionalities of their intranet solution. This provides a context in which a useful design process can take place.
Communicate With End Users
Once the stakeholders have worked with us to identify their goals and outlined the constraints, it's time to open up communication with the end users. Now you can ask for ideas and feedback on the initial design, within the context set by budget, deadlines, and technical constraints.
A good way of managing user expectations is to develop a prototype as early as possible and ask users to try it out. This sets a framework for the design process, which helps to reduce the number of unrealistic requests made by users.
Avoid User Disappointment
By starting your intranet design project with a clear idea of what is possible given your schedule and budget, you can help to avoid end user disappointment and complaints. Planning, communication, and prototype testing are all essential to managing expectations in an intranet design project.
Learn more about how you could benefit from a ready-to-go corporate intranet solution by downloading our free tip sheet, 5 Signs A Ready-To-Go Intranet Is Right For Your Firm.