Save a minute on your intranet – and save a person-year

Posted on December 9, 2007 by ssmith

In this issue

Save a minute on your intranet – and save a person-year

If you have an intranet, you may be interested to see how it can provide cost-savings.

We analysed search phrases typed into an intranet search engine recently. The intranet we studied has a couple million visits per year, to 10,000 pages. Not large by Microsoft standards, who once had six million pages on their intranet. But this particular intranet may give you an average picture. They have about 100,000 search events per year. Of those, we identified the commonly-used search phrases. Then we categorized them and included search phrases that related to those most commonly-used. For instance, travel is commonly used so we associated related phrases like “travel directive”, “travel claim”, “travel policy”, with it.

The results showed where the intranet could have the largest cost-savings. One out of ten search events were seeking Human Resources content. More if we count indirectly-related terms about employee engagement events, etc. We could simply conclude that HR issues are a significant need for intranet users. But the implication might also be that HR content is difficult to find, and thus users search.

Whatever you conclude, there is a third implication – there is good reason to make intranet content easier to find. In this case, usability equals time savings. Even shaving just one minute off each of these HR-related search events could save the organization that uses that intranet more than one person-month. Save a minute on all searches on that intranet, and we could save a whole person-year across that organization.

Take a minute to call us if you’d like your intranet to save you a person-year.

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The Web-Act corollary – write for action

Speech-act theory asserts that all communication exists to cause action in the world. People write or speak so that something will happen. Similarly, user experience designers constantly clarify the action they want to enable. When we do not, our web content might be ignored by users, or prompt users to hit the back button to avoid distracting noise. Perhaps there is a corollary to speech-act theory – that users want web content that leads to action. Maybe we could call this the “Web-Act Corollary“.

We see the Web-Act corollary in usability testing:
People look for the actions they recognize:

  • They scan for the actions in web content.
  • They look for links, which are really just devices to enable action.
  • They judge whether they are on the right page by whether the links – actions – are meaningful to them.

In usability testing we also see that:
People quickly decide which actions to avoid:

  • They don’t stay on pages where they don’t understand the actions presented to them.
  • They don’t click links that might make them take an action they don’t understand.
  • They decide a web page is not relevant if the actions presented to them are not relevant to what they are doing.
  • People leave your web content when they don’t see the actions they need to take.

The web experience is about actions because people are on the web to do something. Find out the key actions people will recognize, and write your web content just for those actions. And get rid of the actions people might avoid. For more tips see our article “Web content is where the action is” [6]. Here is how Gerry McGovern says it:

“Never tell people what you’re going to do for them on the Web. Just let them do what they came to do as quickly and simply as possible … Nobody wants to read about your five year plan. Your website is a place for implementing that plan.”

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Typical tasks in 2007

We talk a lot about tasks, and experience, and user-centred design. This time of year, while people talk about all the new gizmos of the last twelve months, we look at 2007 in terms of behaviours. Here are some ways to look at 2007 from a behavioural perspective.

  • We tested usability online
    New remote usability methods arrived in late 2006, and in 2007 became mainstream. Read about our experience using TechSmith UserVue [7]. If you have not tested usability remotely, call us.
  • We measured web experiences differently 
    eople are adopting new web analytics, such as free GoogleAnalytics, or new heat mapping visualizations like CrazyEgg, ClickTale, and WebTrends SmartView. ComScore and Nielsen Net Ratings convinced advertisers to think differently. People are suddenly less interested in hits. Pay-what-you-will schemes took front-stage with Radiohead. Pay-per-click schemes like Google AdSense convince us of the profoundly-obvious – “hits” do not measure the value of a web experience.
  • We deleted fewer files
    Storage continually gets cheaper and more abundant. People are spending less of their valuable time throwing things out and adding storage – in many forms – extra hard drives, recordable DVD, network storage, USB keys, tiny cards that fit in their camera or portable device. When Hotmail was created, storage cost $100 per GB. When storage dropped to $1 per GB, Google offered its landmark amount of web mail storage. By 2010 storage is estimated to drop to a penny per GB, depending on packaging.
  • We generated content using new interfaces
    People are contributing content to web sites in new ways. If you have a content management system (like Interwoven or RedHat), you couldn’t help but notice that the masses can author blogs, wikis, and web pages easier this year; e.g. WordPress, PBwiki, and Google PageCreator. On Curriki, teachers generated 3,000 lessons, assessments, and curricula resources. On Wikipedia, 2,000 authors contributed to one news story alone. Most of them did not use a content management system (CMS). Why are people generating web content in so many other ways than in a CMS? Because newer tools help a web author respond more quickly to the tasks their readers need to do. If 2006 was the year of user-generated content, 2007 was the year of enterprise webmasters enabling more authors. Why? So authors can give users the content they want – without a lot of focus on the authoring tool – so users can complete their tasks more quickly. A CMS still serves site managers pretty well. But new tools for user-generated content took a strong lead this year.

 “Manage the task, not the tools or the timber”   Gerry McGovern

  • We went to a library
    Think the web is replacing libraries? Half of U.S. adults visited a library in 2007. The largest number of users were 18-30 years old. 40% of “Gen Y” respondents say they will use libraries in the future – twice as many as other age groups. “Internet use seems to create an information hunger, and information-savvy young people are most likely to visit libraries,” says Leigh Estabrook, co-author of a report on the survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project [8].
  • We watched our words
    To understand what web visitors are looking for, we are monitoring search terms more closely. The most-used search phrases are about people, products, and habits. Google offers some simple advice – the most important search terms are about “who”, “what”, or “how-to”. Web strategists watched those words more closely this year. The success of a web experience became more closely linked to how well people can find the site from a search engine, scan for words they recognize, and scan the navigational links to quickly size up the options available. If you haven’t been watching your words, get started with carewords. [15]
  • We relied on small business innovations The mantra of Web2.0 – “small pieces loosely joined” – is true in general for innovation. Small businesses did more than their share of innovating this year. Industry Canada’s simple summary of small business speaks volumes:

    “I am one of over 2.5 million entrepreneurs. We make up 15% of the workforce and represent 43% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product. We employ 6 out of 10 Canadians and account for 70% of job growth. 1/3 of us are women, 8% young, 25% senior, 20% new Canadians. As many as 1/3 small businesses fail in their first year. To succeed, I need the right business information at the right time.”

  • “Wii” played together
    People played games with people this year, in physical ways. Games have become social – again. People of all ages played multi-player games on game boxes like the Nintendo Wii. Games boxes connect to the web. But this year was more than playing online – people played together in their homes. Games like Guitar Hero, Dance Revolution, Wii Sports offer physical input devices that let players move around the room. People used their whole bodies to play games. They heeded warnings to move furniture and make room for the motion. Remote game interfaces and larger displays enabled people to experience games – and the web – in a shared space.
  • We put Web 2.0 to work
    We did business on Skype, LinkedIn,, found contact information on directory services from Google, AT&T Infreeda, and 800-Free-411. Two million people each week join Facebook. Government agencies adopted it too. CBC made news with its Facebook groups – and 1,145 CBC employees have a profile on Facebook. Presidential candidate videos were viewed on YouTube millions of times. Intelligence analysts add an average of 114 articles and 4,800 updates each workday to the new top-secret Intellipedia.
  • We lost productivity from anti-piracy schemes
    Software vendors are rightly concerned about theft. Anti-piracy is a necessary evil. But they both cost us more time this year. How can we tell the pirates from the anti-pirates? Business people lost hours of time this year coping with anti-piracy schemes, license numbers, rootkit, DRM, and Windows Genuine Advantage. When is the cure worse than the poison?
  • We used higher resolution and wider screens We try to see web pages through users’ eyes. Here is one peek.There is a trend toward larger monitors and higher screen resolution. In just one year, 1024×768 dropped to one-third of our page-views. Read our article about how designing for screen resolution can make your web content more visible [16]. In 2007 an increasing percentage of people viewed our website at wider-format higher resolutions:

Screen resolution of visitors to in 2007


January 2007

June 2007

December 2007

1024 x 768




1280 x 1024




1440 x 900




1280 x 960




1280 x 800




1680 x 1050




800 x 600




1152 x 864




1600 x 1200




1920 x 1200




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Usability professionals – Neo Insight needs you!

We specialize in the Customer Experience. We like working with good people to augment and to complement our skills. Contact us if you feel you would like to work with us. We offer one-off contracts, leading to longer-term contracts. We are especially interested in people who can:

  • Plan, design and carry out usability tests
  • Conduct expert heuristic analyses
  • Develop use cases and task analyses
  • Design user interface architectures
  • Conduct comparative or competitive analyses
  • Compare risks and benefits of alternative user experience design options
  • Mock-up interactive user experience concepts or applications
  • Prototype with tools such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop, HTML, and JavaScript
  • Optimize design to meet technical constraints and business goals
  • Apply leading-edge industry standards and best practices in user experience design
  • Work independently and in teams with stakeholders, business clients, or developers
  • Present to senior-level audiences

Advantages you might have would include bilingualism, graphic design, or implementation skills.

If you’re interested in joining us, email us with your resume [17].

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Quote of the month

“Enlightened trial and error beats the planning of flawless intellects … The reason is simple: the best solutions to most problems are rarely the most obvious… Think about it. What did you ever learn by doing it right the first time? … Fail faster to succeed sooner.”

David Kelly, CEO of IDEO

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URLs in this post:

[1] Save a minute on your intranet – and save a person-year: #save_a_person_year

[2] The Web-Act corollary – write for action: #tip_web_act_corollary

[3] Typical tasks this year : #main_article

[4] Usability professionals – Neo Insight needs you! : #NeoNeedsYou

[5] Back to Top: #top

[6] “Web content is where the action is”:

[7] our experience using TechSmith UserVue:

[8] survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project:

[9] January – layers of the experience:

[10] June – agile usability testing:

[11] February – allocate budget to the experience:

[12] March – are you experienced?:

[13] July – life of a web search:

[14] August – long neck and customer carewords:

[15] get started with carewords.:

[16] how designing for screen resolution can make your web content more visible:

[17] email us with your resume: Insight careers

[18] send us an email : on December 2007 Insighter

[19] subscribe to the Insighter,:

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