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Why I love Intranet card sorting and you should too

by Martyn Green on August 27, 2019

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Intranet card sorting is a technique used by people who want to know what connects people to the content they are looking for. The process is to determine the intranet Information Architecture.

There are of course many ways to know what people do on a regular basis, but without relevant content examples you are really looking for what an intranet can help them achieve. This is of course important and Diary studies, workshops and task observation are good techniques but they don’t seem to provide the interaction and relevance that a good card sort does. I am not advocating not doing these but they have their place in the intranet Journey.

If you don’t do card sorting you only know what you have found out through requirements analysis and there is no interaction with how users actually use, understand and share the content that the intranet can facilitate. You can of course run a workshop and ask for ideas but this doesn’t allow people to formulate and relate content with its purpose. Its fair to say that not all intranet content has a purpose. The desire to need to use one should be blended with the will or want to use it. Social factors, feeds, images and fun stories are all items of intranet content to me.

The Benefits of Intranet Card Sorting

In a card sort the attendees need to understand how ‘they’ have grouped content, this breeds acceptance and ownership. The group unintentionally perform a high level content audit often dismissing old ways or old content or asking why… these vital questions allow the group to learn and with learning comes a collective intelligence that is impossible to create artificially by surveys and one on one activities.

Headings are created often at the end of the sort and this focuses minds and gets agreement on collective common sense terms. Its no point people coming up with a heading that is meaningless, no matter how hard the sponsor or an individual wants it to change, people wont understand and wont accept it, or worse your intranet.

It really is the most effective, efficient, team based intranet activity that you could do right now. If you don’t do it, then how will you determine, navigation, pages, tagging, headings / labels and overcome possible objections or user friction.

Action plan to start doing it yourself 

Identify content from your current intranet and merge with surveys and other requirements analysis including any great features form your supplier to form the ‘list’ of content you will use for the session. If you haven’t yet chosen a supplier this is not a problem, get in touch and I will share some common useful features that most can achieve in their way.

Invite people that have performed roles that are representative of your audience. Include new starters and remote workers.

Ensure the content list is in scope and line with your intranet objectives. Cover these at the start and if you wish, ask people to bring ideas with them, but be clear they may not be included for phase 1.

Be crystal clear about next steps, how much you want them involved and what communication strategy will be employed after this exercise. If you have a product why not use it as the vehicle for the group to collaborate. Why use email?

Don’t assume afterwards you have it 100% right. After reflection minds change and headings could merge and new areas or ideas emerge.

Keep the same group together for the next exercise and if possible the adoption / UAT sessions afterwards. This group could be your new intranet steering team.

Finally, make it fun, bring chocolates and take pictures all the way. It’s the start of your first Intranet story 😊

If you are considering a new intranet or looking to improve your current one check out or latest intranet events. Packed full of interactive sessions, networking and advice they really are a great place to start your intranet journey.

Topics: intranet card sorting

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