Putting Your Users in the Driving Seat

Author: Infomentum

Research shows that a personalised web experience can increase click through rates by up to 300%. But how do you go about creating end-user driven navigation and search that works?

Life would be dull if everyone thought the same. Dull, but it sure would make web design simple.

If everyone's brains worked in the same way, you could create a fixed navigation for your site (public website, customer portal or intranet), confident in the knowledge that everyone would navigate around it in exactly the same way. But, back in the real world, of course they don't.

While it might seem intuitive to you for certain content and information to appear in a certain location, it might be the last place your customers expect to find it. But then you can't create a different site for everyone. Or can you?

End of the road for fixed navigation

Most sites use fixed navigation – a linear and supposedly logical way to find your way around. But this assumes that everyone's logic is the same. Which of course, it's not – as anyone who's ever watched an episode of The X Factor can attest.

So while fixed or perpetual navigation has often been seen as best practice, this doesn’t mean there are not even better alternatives. Today, it’s altogether possible to make the way content is presented dependant on the user journey – reorganising and re-emphasising relevant content in reaction to what the user does.

Understanding your customers

While this kind of user-driven (also referred to as ‘guided’) navigation and search is ideal, it's not always easy to achieve. For a start, if you want a site that responds to your users’ preferences, you'll first need to understand those preferences. And you can't do that unless they are registered with you and have a preferences-driven profile.

What you can do, however, is capture their behaviour as they move through the site and let the system decide what to render and when. But to do this you need to tag and classify all of your content using a strong classification mechanism. And ontology can help you achieve exactly that.

Ontology – the basics

Ontology is an advanced classification mechanism which defines how various entities in a hierarchy can be related or grouped. But unlike traditional taxonomy – the simple, hierarchical way most sites structure content – ontology is more about the semantic relationships between entities and hence the content.

For example, with tree-structured taxonomy you'd see something like this: Home > Products > Gifts > Chocolate. But with ontology the content would be tagged based on its semantic relationship (eg it would understand that chocolate is a gift, but it's also food).

To make this work for your site, you start by building relationships in your ontology and then continue to enhance the results by capturing your users’ behaviour, letting the system learn as it goes. That way, you'll end up with all of your content tagged by relationships, in ways you may well have never predicted.

Learning from Amazon and co

This approach shouldn't just stop at the first click or search result. If you keep adding to your users’ preferences at each level of the site, you will create a rich, personalised experience from start to finish. And the best part is that you can learn from users’ behaviour and enhance your ontology to gain deep insights into your own information relationships.

Take Amazon as the perfect example. You start by searching for a camera. Immediately, the results are filtered based on what Amazon has previously captured about your preferences. Then as the search filter becomes richer (eg as you filter by megapixel, brand and price) even then the products you see are related to your previous behaviour. Meaning you get to what you're looking for faster and you're clicking 'Add to basket' before you know it. Amazon can then go on to recommend more products that other buyers purchased.

Power to the customer

Why bother giving your users this much control over what they see and how they interact with your site? Simple. The more a site is personalised, the better the user experience and the more likely a user is to engage with it on a deep level. Whether that means buying from you or coming back to your site time and time again. Some sites using this approach have seen a massive 40% increase in their page views.

The more control a user has, and the more they drive the contextual search for content, the more you can learn about them. Which in turn means a better user experience for all your visitors.

And that's one bit of logic everyone can agree on.

Introducing the Workplace of Tomorrow

Author: Infomentum

Author: Vikram Setia

As the world becomes increasingly connected, organisations are struggling to keep up. So how can you turn a disorganised work environment into a streamlined, information-sharing machine? The answer is the Information Workplace.

Large organisations are overflowing with information. Data (structured and unstructured), transactions, emails, paper – they’re bursting at the seams with the stuff. But, as Einstein said, information is not knowledge. Especially when that information can’t be used by the right people at the right time.

According to recent research, the inability to find what they need, when they need it, is one of the biggest frustrations for today’s information worker. Especially when they’re used to being so connected in their personal lives via social networks, wikis and blogs.

So, why can’t large organisations pull off the same level of collaboration and knowledge sharing that has taken over the rest of the world?

The answer is: they can. Thanks to the Information Workplace.

The road to the Information Workplace

So, what is the Information Workplace and why should you care?

It might be simpler to start by talking about what the Information Workplace is not. It’s not a back-end database, a front-end application or even a middleware solution. It’s not even a strategic platform.

It’s a journey. A journey towards a business where information flows freely, to the right people, at the right time – helping them stay connected.

Of course, the journey is going to be different for every organisation. The first step towards the Information Workplace could be your intranet, your supplier portal or partner portal, or any other point in your organisation where information needs to be accessed. But there’s one thing that unites every step along the road. People.

Connecting people

People, and how they work, are at the heart of the Information Workplace. Simply, it connects data, content and processes to the people who need it, when they need it and how they need it.

With so much information buzzing around an organisation, it’s easy for people to be overwhelmed – caught in a state of decision paralysis: what information do they need to do the job at hand, what do they need to share with their colleagues, what must they allow their customers to access? The Information Workplace frees people from all of this, enabling them to find what they need more easily, collaborate more efficiently and deliver a better customer experience.

Get the information flowing

Part of the reason it’s tricky to sum up the Information Workplace is because it covers so much ground. It’s a mix of content, data, transactions, processes and communication – and a way of dealing with it all in an efficient, intuitive and intelligent way.

Perhaps, it’s better to think of it in terms of aims. And the ultimate aim of the Information Workplace is to create an organisation where systems are enablers rather than barriers. And where people have everything they need to do their best jobs.

Now doesn’t that sound like something that’s worth working towards?

To learn more about the Information Workplace concept, be sure to download our white paper, Productivity Through Collaboration. Keep reading the infoMENTUM blog for more posts about content policies, security, social angle and technology platforms.

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