Farai Madzima, User Experience (UX) Designer at NATIVE
Inside-Out describes the typical approach to building web experiences where businesses structure their web properties according to their internal business structures or processes. "Our UX designers refer privately to this approach as 'exposing your corporate underpants' - something your users don't want to see," says Farai Madzima, User Experience (UX) Designer at NATIVE. "Websites built using this philosophy will typically have sections that reflect the divisions of the business and use jargon that only employees would understand. Nobody out here in the real world buys 'Value-Added Services', but you'll be surprised how many companies use this kind of language on their websites."
Fortunately, Sappi had already taken the first and most important step to doing user-centered design: a lot of research. "Not market segmentation and LSM's; they had done deep behavioural research with both their clients and their staff. Using this rich data NATIVE created a simple, focused and refined digital framework that would ensure a seamless, useful experience for all of Sappi's users," says Farai.
A key aspect of the framework is an information architecture (IA) that closely aligns with site visitors. IA refers to three key things:
- How we organise features and content into sections on the site.
- The labels and language we use to label site content.
- The navigation features that we provide to allow site users to find what they're looking for on the site.
Using Sappi's research data NATIVE created a new IA that not only aligns with what Sappi's clients expect, but also improves the site's Search Engine Optimisation, since search engine spiders prefer well-organised sites.
"Typically corporate intranets are designed as document repositories. While this approach has merit, it ignores the fact that staff visit the intranet with the ultimate goal of completing a task - a task that may require a specific document. This insight led NATIVE to design an intranet portal that primarily focuses on the tasks staff need to complete rather than the documents they need to find," adds Farai.
For both the website and the intranet, it was the combination of Sappi extensive research from around the world with NATIVE's user-centred design approach that lead to designs that not only appeal visually, but also help Sappi satisfy the needs of its staff and clients.
"This international collaboration has further deepened our UX understanding, bringing a global perspective to our local knowledge. With this new wealth of UX experience and knowledge we are interpreting the redesign of our internal site as a current project to communicate the skills gained," says Farai.
"As with any good project, there were many more lessons learned: this time the biggest being that User Experience is integral to creating digital properties that are easy to find, easy to use and very easy on the eye," he concludes.