In 2011, I worked with a client on their SharePoint 2010 intranet implementation. The user research and usability testing we conducted surfaced two interesting findings that influenced direction on news:

  1. Employees categorize all news together in one bucket
  2. Employees need to find news by filters other than date

Shocking, right? We all have personal experience trying to find something we read a month ago. Can’t recall the date, can’t recall the communication channel, but the topic is clear.

Or, perhaps the author or department it was about, or maybe we remember which region or local office. But, not the date it was published.

These results occur again and again in our client research.

News is News is News

When we do card sorting – usability testing in which participants organize and label topics – participants put all news items together into one category labeled “news.” They don’t care if the news item is about a promotion, an event in a particular region, a new product, a change in benefits, a marketing campaign, or an update on earnings or strategy. Your internal readers want one place to go for news. And that isn’t necessarily the home page.

They look to the home page for the most current material; what is happening right now? Employees do not expect to find all the news on the home page.

This means your intranet needs a news site, a center or hub where all news comes together in one view. Yes, you’ll still show some current news on the home page, but readers need a spot to go to find things that published last week or last month. That might look like Figure 1:

 

Filtering and Crowdsourcing Make It Useful

Establishing a news site with articles and metadata-driven filtering on SharePoint wouldn’t be difficult. Take it to the next level by providing more sophisticated filtering and better social tools.

Take another look at the example in Figure 1 and you’ll see just that. Filters on the left that offer channel, region, office and departmental filters. Just above that are the “most popular” and “highest rated” tabs that use usage and rating data to push the cream to the top.

A warehouse team lead once explained to me that when she’s off-shift –several days at a time – she’s completely disconnected. “I need a place to go to catch up on everything I’ve missed; particularly what’s important to my department.” She’s not alone. Employees don’t sit in front of the home page waiting for the next new post to show up.

What About the Activity Feed?

Are curated news features and links on the intranet home page dinosaurs? Some believe the activity feed alone should suffice. It has all the posts included in it, right? Plus, it’s got everything else that everyone is doing, in case you need to know John waited in the Chicago cafeteria line for 20 minutes.

Activity feeds can drive readership, but you might want to create a custom feed that pulls from specific sources rather than using the broad feed that is like a fire hose of content and activity.

I don’t see organizations rushing to abandon news features on the home page. These may be reduced in number and size, but there will always be special stories that deserve more attention than other activity.

With this in mind, we mocked up a sample of a home page with a personalized activity feed and several featured news items. This is based on work we are doing with a client (see Figure 2).

 

This example has an activity feed of people, sites, pages and documents I’ve followed, 3 featured news areas, a personalized list of things I’ve visited recently (My Recent Items), and a How Do I drop-down tool. It also leverages many of the social elements Digital Workplace Group talks about in a recent post about putting more social on your home page.

You could trade out the “my” activity feed for a broader one. Or, you could trade it out for a curated news feed that draws from very specific sources. Be strategic about what feed you use.

4 Tips for Intranet News Delivery

In short, keep these few things in mind when you consider news delivery:

  • An activity feed is fine on the home page, but doesn’t meet 100% of user news needs
  • Users need a central site to browse all news
  • Give users controls to help them find relevant news
  • Integrate user-generated news, such as blogs, whenever possible

Check out ElevatePoint News for a SharePoint tool that gets you most of the way there. It’s based on some of Eloquor’s methodology and keeps you from recreating this wheel.