Make it simple - or else

Compared to the hard slog of back-office integration, the issue of ensuring a positive user experience may seem to be the more...

Compared to the hard slog of back-office integration, the issue of ensuring a positive user experience may seem to be the more cosmetic side of a Web project. Not to Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen, though. Nielsen claims that the quality of user experience can make or break an e-initiative investment.

With customer-facing Web sites the picture is clear: if a site is easy to use, it will succeed; but if it is hard to use, visitors will quickly take their custom elsewhere. Even if the site can boast the bargain of the century, if a customer cannot access or find it, the whole project is a wasted investment - you might as well not have it.

With corporate intranets, the same principles apply. An intranet is about productivity, about giving staff an alternative means of carrying out such tasks as filing expense forms. Again, if the process is cumbersome, people will simply revert to the tried and tested way of doing that task, which ends up costing the company more money.

And if a task that should take three minutes ends up taking 20 minutes, this can translate into a dramatic productivity loss.

Getting it right, and making a Web site or intranet simpler and quicker to use, can improve staff productivity and cut training and implementation costs. But getting it wrong could mean the whole cost of an IT project is wasted.

Read more on Integration software and middleware

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