In an article in the Intranet Journal, Paul Chin writes about human-centered intranet design.
Chin decries how some intranets “alienate individual users who struggle to decipher poorly developed or overly complicated systems.” He recommends that developers use cognitive ergonomics with an end product that conforms to the natural way in which humans work and think.
According to Chin, it is the intranet developer’s responsibility to make sure that users can connect with the system. He points out, however, that some developers get carried away with experimenting with technology and add “bells-and-whistles” that complicate the system for users.
Chin asserts that the use of inefficient, poorly developed and overly complicated software can change the way employees work and cause them to develop bad habits.
To make the intranet more human-friendly, Chin says developers should be conscious of fundamental human behavior and the specific needs of their users. He provides the following basic design principles that intranet developers can make use of:
· Organize content structure by context because the human mind is linear. Do not break users’ train of thought by spreading related information, putting them under multiple levels, or interrupting them with other content.
· Arrange content layout so that users can understand the context of a page at a glance.
· Humans absorb only small amounts of information at a time, so do not clutter the screen with too much stimuli.
· Navigational systems should be self-explanatory and should not require instructions.
· Do not use technical jargon or obscure acronyms unless these are known to your primary audience.
· Edit content because poorly written content will affect users’ comprehension.
· You can give the intranet a more human voice with blogs, discussion groups and podcasts.
· A virtual assistant or “chatterbot” that can answer frequently asked questions may be reassuring to users who are not technically-inclined.
· Avoid flashy gimmicks that complicate the system and may intimidate some users.
· Always respond to users’ messages sent through any contact information provided on the intranet.
Chin says that people have different levels of aptitude or tolerance toward technology and it is the role of developers to ensure that their systems do not put undue stress on users.
Although this article may be more pointedly focused on technical developers, communicators who develop web content should also take heed.