There is a page on my Employer’s Intranet that has received close of 500 comments over the past year or so. The vast majority of these are highly complimentary and use words like ‘love’ and ‘great’. Many of the comments express genuine delight. Some of the more expressive comments talk about how the page increased user confidence and reduced stress.
The surprising thing about all these comments is that the page is not used often. The positive comments per page visit is much larger than any other page, site, or system used in the organization.
So why do the employees find this page so delightful and empowering?
- It does not have a stunning visual design. It’s very plain. It uses a few simple colors and 2 small icons – a bullet point and check mark.
- The content is simple and short. Most users only need to read 100 words or less. It consists mostly of short questions and even shorter answers.
- It does not have spectacular animations, just a simple fade in effect when a question or answer appears.
- It does not use any HTML form elements or custom widgets, just hyperlinks on text.
So what is it? It’s a simple decision guide that starts with one question and 3 simple answers – Yes, No, and I’m not sure. Clicking Yes or No presents a follow-up question that is relevant for the answer. Clicking ‘I’m not sure’ presents information about how to determine which answer to select. The user continues to answer questions until they reach the final answer - the step by step procedures for meeting a client’s need.
An example of this decision guide and the jQuery code that enables it is illustrated in this previous post.
So why is this page so effective? It eliminates the need to read and interpret all the rules governing a particular business process in light of a given situation. Most organizations, whether governments or business, will have manuals or intranet sites that document all the rules governing their processes. To perform a process an employee must be able to read and interpret the rules. This can be a daunting task. What if they miss something or don’t completely understand one of the rules? The fear of doing something wrong can put a lot of stress on an employee. In my organization we often hear these front line employees say they read the rules on an Intranet and then call the support center to confirm they have interpreted the rules correctly. This can be a costly way to do business.
To determine what needs to be done in a given situation support center specialists ask questions. The same kinds of questions that can be asked on a web page. Employees usually know the answers to these questions. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is understanding the rules about what needs to be done given a particular set of answers.
Adding pages and pages of rules to your organization’s Intranet site is not going to be very effective. There is a better way to enable employees to complete processes. It will take some difficult work to map out a decision tree, but in the end your employees will be delighted and you may eliminate a lot of unnecessary calls to your support centers.