Case Study: Microsoft Web
Award-winning redesign of an intranet portal
Microsoft Web is the main intranet portal within Microsoft, with over 60,000 unique users per month, 75% of whom use the site once or more per day. The site has also grown to host an assortment of content for various business groups, including news, information about the company and about various corporate services.
Challenge: A Portal for the Whole Intranet, “Out of the Box”
The primary overall goals of the project were to increase employee productivity and user satisfaction, and to serve as the premier internal showcase implementation of the latest version of SharePoint—using the software “out of the box” as much as possible. The split nature of the site as portal and content destination was evident in its structure and navigation, with two similar sets of subject categories—one leading to content hosted on MSWeb and one leading to content on sites around the intranet (including MSWeb). This, along with a convoluted information architecture that had evolved organically over time, led to much confusion amongst users.
Approach: Merge, Sort, Test, Repeat…
Rather than try to clarify the portal/content distinction, I merged the two into one. Users didn’t know or care where content was hosted as long as they could find it. Multiple rounds of user testing confirmed this and helped us come up with categories and navigation elements. I created 15 different page templates as well as numerous examples using real content, a high-level sitemap, and reorganized the site inventory of the 900-page site to fit the new model and testing results.
Outcome: Productivity, Satisfaction and an Award
The results were a user-centric site with task-based navigation that let employees spend less time looking for information and more time doing things with it, which led to an 18% increase in employee satisfaction with the site. The Nielsen Norman Group chose the site, based on usability, as one of the Year’s 10 Best Intranets for 2007.
- User Experience Architect
- Usability Tester
- Content Planner
The split nature of the site as portal and content destination was evident in its structure and navigation, with two similar sets of subject categories—one leading to content hosted on MSWeb and one leading to content on sites around the intranet (including MSWeb).
I left early wireframes very simple, but added more detail as we agreed on some of the basic page structures. The examples above are one of the first and last versions of the home page.
Wireframe Templates and Content Examples
I created 15 different templates for different types of pages, as well as numerous examples using real content. The annotated content examples helped the client understand how to make use of the templates, in particular by mixing on-page navigation in with content, and how the previously separated portal links and hosted content would sometimes merge on a single page.
I created a high-level sitemap to show the upper levels of the new site hierarchy and other information, such as which pages contained hosted content, portal links, or both. I tested the categories and labels in multiple rounds with a variety of Microsoft employees.
Detailed Site Structure
A taxonomist on our team had conducted a site inventory. I rearranged and added fields to the resulting spreadsheet to show the organization of the 900 page site, what templates to use, and recommendations on leveraging the existing content into the new structure.
Redesigned Site at Launch
The redesigned site met with very favorable reviews and led to an 18% increase in employee satisfaction with the site. The Nielsen Norman Group chose Microsoft Web as one of “The Year’s 10 Best Intranets”.