Thursday, December 29, 2011

SharePoint 2010 - Part 1

Today, I am going to describe more details about SharePoint 2010.

New user interface

SharePoint 2010 user interface includes a new ribbon to perform tasks quickly and in the context of your work. If you work with 2007 Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint, you are already familiar with the ribbon.

Like the ribbon in these Office applications, the new ribbon in SharePoint 2010 is designed to help you quickly find the commands that you need to complete your tasks. Commands are organized in logical groups, displayed together under tabs. Each tab relates to a type of activity, such as working with a document in a document library or adding and formatting text on a page.


SharePoint 2010 includes the new co-authoring feature which allows few users to work simultaneously on the same documents. For example, to review a document you can send a link to the document in a SharePoint library, and all of the reviewers can provide their feedback in the document simultaneously.

Calendar feature has been improved. You can now schedule meetings and keep track of your schedule more easily. Improved calendar allows to display multiple SharePoint and Exchange calendars on a single page. You can easily add events to a calendar by clicking a date and entering details for the event without leaving the calendar. You can also drag and drop items within a calendar. There is the new Group calendar to schedule meetings with colleagues and schedule resources such as audio visual equipment and meeting rooms.

Working with wiki pages is more streamlined. You can insert and format content directly on the page with the new Rich Text Editor. Browse for images or photos on your local computer or network and insert them into your site without leaving the page you are on.

Managing multiple items in SharePoint lists is more efficient. Now you can select multiple items in a list and click a button to perform the same action on all the items at the same time. For example, you can check in or check out several documents at the same time.

Creating and managing blogs has improved authoring tools and new navigation. Use the new Rich Text Editor to more easily and intuitively author blog posts. Browse for images or photos on your local computer or network and insert them into your blog posts without leaving the page. Browse blog entries by month as well as by categories. You can see the number of posts for each month or category in real time. A new "Archive" link provides access to a view of all months since the blog’s inception and, within each month, posts are listed by category.

Social Computing

With the new features in SharePoint Server 2010 you can locate content and stay informed about people and areas of interest that matter most to you. New features include newsfeeds, social tagging, and ratings so that you can more easily keep track of your colleagues’ activities, as well as share relevant content.

Improvements to "My Sites" help you use your "My Sites" and profiles to share knowledge in your specific area with your colleagues. Adding interests and responsibilities to profiles makes it easier for colleagues to find each other through newsfeeds, ask and answer questions, and to connect in other ways.

You can use activity feeds on My Sites to follow your colleagues’ activities, stay informed of developments in areas you are interested in, and connect with others who are looking for help in areas you are interested in. You can also receive recommendations for new colleagues or keywords to follow, so that you can expand your professional network and knowledge.

Mobile SharePoint

With SharePoint Web pages optimized for viewing on small devices, you can now view and work with documents, blogs, wikis, back-end business data, and sites from your mobile phone. You can use the mobile search experience for finding people, contact information, SharePoint content, and finding data in custom databases. Subscribe to text message (SMS) alerts for changes to documents in SharePoint or to any SharePoint document library or list.

Offline access to site content

Microsoft SharePoint Workspace now enables you to work with SharePoint sites, libraries, and lists on your desktop while disconnected from your corporate network and then to synchronize your changes when you reconnect to your corporate network.

Major benefits of this offline and online integration include:
  • you can quickly view, add, edit and delete SharePoint library documents or list items while you are offline;
  • two-way synchronization between your computer and the network—that is, updates to data on your computer or on the network—are automatic while you are connected to the network;
  • content is automatically synchronized when you take your computer offline and then go back online;
  • you can use the new External List feature to work more efficiently with back-end business data—such as SQL Server databases and SAP—while you are offline.
Business Connectivity Services (BCS)

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) enables SharePoint integration with external data, including line of business applications. BCS builds on top of the Business Data Catalog (BDC) technology delivered in Microsoft SharePoint 2007. Use BCS to:
  • more easily define external content types—previously referred to as “entities”—by using SharePoint Designer’s visual interface, without using an XML editor;
  • connect to a wider range of data sources—relational databases, SAP, Web services, and custom applications—and interact with them in richer ways, including full create, read, update, and delete support;
  • use rich client extensions to build a SharePoint application and extend it to Office client applications such as SharePoint Workspace, Outlook and Word, so you can work with your external data offline;
  • view external back-end business data across server and client applications with no customization, including seamless business data integration with SharePoint lists.
I will describe more details about SharePoint 2010 in my next post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SharePoint 2010 - What is different?

My last post was about Microsoft SharePoint. Today, I am going to talk about the differences in SharePoint 2010.

SharePoint Editions

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 comes in three different editions: SharePoint Foundation, SharePoint Standard, and SharePoint Enterprise.

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation is the platform for all products in the SharePoint family. It contains all of the core functionality and architecture drawn on by the commercial versions of the package. SharePoint Foundation is available for download at no cost. Downloading SharePoint Foundation however, requires a mandatory registration.

Microsoft SharePoint Standard

Microsoft SharePoint Standard builds on the Microsoft SharePoint Foundation in a few key product areas:

Sites: audience targeting, governance tools, secure store service, web analytics functionality.

Communities: "MySites" (personal profiles including skills management and search tools), enterprise wikis, organization hierarchy browser, tags, and notes.

Content: improved tooling and compliance for document and record management, managed metadata, word automation services, content type management.

Search: better search results, search customization abilities, mobile search, "Did you mean?", OS search integration, faceted search, and metadata/relevancy/date/location based refinement options.

Composites: pre-built workflow templates, BCS profile pages.

Note: some search features are available in Search Server Express - a no-cost add-in for Microsoft SharePoint Foundation. SharePoint Standard licensing includes a CAL (client access license) component and a server fee. SharePoint Standard may be also be licensed through a cloud model.

It is possible to upgrade a SharePoint farm from Foundation to Standard. The product is equivalent to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007.

Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise

Built upon SharePoint Standard, Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise features can be unlocked simply by providing an additional licence key. The product is the equivalent to MOSS 2007 Enterprise.

Extra features in SharePoint Enterprise include:
  • search thumbnails and previews, rich web indexing, better search results;
  • business intelligence Integration, Dashboards, and Business Data surfacing;
  • PowerPivot;
  • PerformancePoint;
  • Microsoft Office Access, Visio, Excel, and InfoPath Forms services;
  • SharePoint Enterprise Search extensions.
SharePoint Enterprise licensing includes a CAL component and a server fee that must be purchased in addition to SharePoint Server licensing. SharePoint Enterprise may also be licensed through a cloud model.

Changes in end-user functionality added in the 2010 version of SharePoint include:

  • user interface featuring Ribbon. The ribbon, part of the redesigned user interface, helps to get the work done faster by placing commands on task-based tabs that are easy to navigate;
  • business connectivity services - providing interfaces for interacting with business data;
  • new governance and workflow functionality;
  • use of Wiki pages rather than Web part pages in default templates;
  • social profiles and social networking features;
  • support for SharePoint Workspaces 2010;
  • a re-developed client editor (SharePoint Designer);
  • multi-browser support: Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 3.6, Chrome 12, Safari 4.04.
Major Server-side or Developer changes include:
  • new central administration UI;
  • replacement of "Shared Service Providers" with "Service Applications";
  • jQuery & Silverlight Support, plus more theming flexibility;
  • new client-side Object Model APIs for JavaScript, Silverlight, and .NET applications;
  • claims-based authentication;
  • support for Windows PowerShell;
  • Sandboxed solutions.
Additional changes exist in paid/advanced versions of SharePoint 2010.

Evaluations of SharePoint by industry analysts have varied. In late 2008, the Gartner Group put SharePoint in the "leaders" quadrant in three of its Magic Quadrants (for search, portals, and enterprise content management). By a wide margin, SharePoint is the most popular high-level enterprise web application platform used today.

More details about SharePoint 2010 in my next post.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Content Management Systems Reviews - Sharepoint

First launched in 2001, Microsoft SharePoint is typically associated with content a management system, but it is actually a much broader platform of web technologies, capable of being configured into a wide range of solution areas.

SharePoint is designed as a broad, central application platform for multiple purpose. SharePoint's multi-purpose design allows for managing of intranet portals, extranets, websites, document management, collaboration spaces, social tools, enterprise search, business intelligence, project management, workflow automation, and core infrastructure for third-party solutions.

Microsoft sells licenses for SharePoint per user or per site and also provides SharePoint as a service in their cloud computing offerings. The product is also sold as a cloud solution by many third-party vendors.

The SharePoint wheel

Microsoft's SharePoint marketing refers to the "SharePoint Wheel" to help describe the package of functionality built into the SharePoint platform. The wheel refers to six abstract functional capabilities:

Sites: The SharePoint platform fundamentally enables users to provision 'sites' (public or private) without a requirement for specialized knowledge. SharePoint is designed to become the central location for management of sites in an organization.

Communities: SharePoint aims to support the formation of communities within an organization - these communities may form around teams, projects, clients, geographic locations, etc. SharePoint also provides social features and social integration.

Content: SharePoint provides a central location to put content such as files, documents, or general information. This can be accessed and modified within a web browser or using a client application (typically Microsoft Office) via desktop or smartphone. SharePoint 2010 also provides a concurrent edit ability with Office 2010.

Search: SharePoint provides a range of search abilities, including in documents, in external content (such as network shares or public websites), and in user profiles.

Insights: SharePoint provides data integration, data crawling, and report design to enable business decision making. SharePoint can integrate with SQL Server Reporting Services to surface business intelligence.

Composites: SharePoint provides an application platform based on ASP.NET 3.5 allowing no-code solutions to complex business problems using SharePoint Designer. SharePoint also allows custom code solutions to be deployed using Visual Studio.


The most common uses of SharePoint include:

Intranet portal: A SharePoint intranet portal is a way to centralize access to enterprise information and applications on a corporate network. It is a tool that helps a company manage its data, applications, and information more easily. This has organizational benefits such as increased employee engagement, centralizing process management, reducing new staff on-boarding costs, and providing tacit knowledge capture.

Enterprise content and document management: SharePoint is often used to store and track electronic documents or images of paper documents. It is usually also capable of keeping track of the different versions created by different users. In addition to being a platform for digital record management systems that meet government and industry compliance standards, SharePoint also provides the benefit of a central location for storing and collaborating on documents, which can significantly reduce emails and duplicated work in an organization.

Extranet sites: SharePoint can be used to provide password-protected, web-facing access to people outside an organization. Organizations often use functionality like this to integrate third parties into supply chain or business processes, or to provide a shared collaboration environment.

Internet sites: Using the Publishing feature, SharePoint can be used to manage larger public websites.

Users Interface

SharePoint offers web interface with a ribbon user-interface that is familiar to users of Microsoft Office. This interface provides a general user interface for manipulating data, page editing ability, and the ability to add functionality to sites.

Broadly, the web-based interface provides the ability to:
  • manipulate content in lists & libraries, pages and sites;
  • copy, create, delete, or rename lists & libraries, pages, sites and web-parts;
  • manage user permissions, and view document/page version histories;
  • manage definitions and properties of lists & libraries, pages, sites and web-parts.

Site collections

A site collection is used to provide a grouping of SharePoint Sites. Each web application must typically have at least one site collection. Site collections may be associated with their own content databases, or they may share a content database with other site collections in the same web application.

A SharePoint Site is a collection of pages, lists, and libraries configured for the purpose of achieving an express goal. A site may contain sub-sites, and those sites may contain further sub-sites. Typically, sites need to be created from scratch, but sites can also be created according to pre-defined templates that provide packaged functionality. Examples of Site templates in SharePoint include: Blogs, MySites, collaboration (team) sites, document workspaces, groupwork sites, and meeting workspaces. Sites have navigation, themes/branding, custom permissions, workflows, and have the ability to be configured or customized in a number of ways. In order to achieve a greater degree of maintainability, sites typically inherit site-level settings from their parent sites.

Lists & libraries

Lists and libraries are stored in SharePoint Sites. A List can be thought of as a collection of pieces of information — all of which (typically) have the same properties. For instance, you can have a list of links called "my links", where each item has a URL, a name, and a description.

Lists have many features such as workflows, item-level or list-level permission, version history tracking, multiple content-types, external data sources, and many more features. Some of these features depend on the version of SharePoint that is installed.

A library is a list where each item in the list refers to a file that is stored in SharePoint. Libraries have all the same behaviors as lists, but because libraries contain files, they have extra features. One of these is the ability to be opened and modified through a compatible WebDAV client (e.g. Windows Explorer).

Microsoft SharePoint comes with some pre-defined list and library definitions. These include: Announcement Lists, Blogs, Contacts, Discussion Boards, Document Libraries, External Content (BCS) lists, Pages, Surveys, and Tasks.

Some of these pre-defined lists have additional integration. For example, lists based on the contact content-type can be synced directly with Microsoft Outlook.

Web Parts

Web-parts are sections that can be inserted into Pages in SharePoint sites. These sections are UI Widgets whose typical uses are:
  • Displaying content defined in the web-part's settings (e.g. custom content or an iFrame);
  • Displaying items from Lists/Libraries (this can be customized in SharePoint Designer, using XSLT & CAML);
  • Providing Access to Features in the SharePoint platform (e.g. Search).
Web-parts based on completely custom code can be built in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and uploaded by end-users to SharePoint as packaged, sandboxed features. Due to the prevalence of SharePoint, third-party vendors often provide SharePoint web-parts for intranet sites.


SharePoint has three primary page content-types: Wiki pages, Web-part pages, and Publishing Pages. Unlike prior versions of SharePoint, the default page type is a 'Wiki Page', which enables free-form editing based on the ribbon toolbar. It is possible to insert Web-parts into any page type.


SharePoint contains a limited search engine. Microsoft produces a free product called Microsoft Search Server Express to complement SharePoint Foundation. Different SharePoint search versions offer different features, but all search engines contain the ability to search within documents and - except in cloud environments: across external data sources (such as file systems).

Next time: I am going to talk about SharePoint 2010.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management (KM) includes a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.

Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization.

KM efforts overlap with organizational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge.

There are two main types of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge represents internalized knowledge that an individual may not be consciously aware of, such as how he or she accomplishes particular tasks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, explicit knowledge represents knowledge that the individual holds consciously in mental focus, in a form that can easily be communicated to others.

A successful KM effort needs to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge in order to share it. For knowledge to be made explicit, it must be translated into information, i.e. content.

Knowledge may be accessed at three stages: before, during, or after KM-related activities.

Different organizations have tried various knowledge capture incentives, including making content submission mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plans.

A successful KM strategy involves actively managing knowledge. In such an instance, individuals strive to document their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository (push strategy). This is also commonly known as the Codification approach to KM.

Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy). In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their knowledge to the particular person or people needing this knowledge. This is also commonly known as the Personalization approach to KM.

Other knowledge management strategies and instruments for companies include:
  • rewards (as a means of motivating for knowledge sharing); 
  • storytelling (as a means of transferring tacit knowledge); 
  • cross-project learning; 
  • after action reviews; 
  • knowledge mapping (a map of knowledge repositories within a company accessible by all;) 
  • communities of practice; 
  • expert directories (to enable knowledge seeker to reach to the experts); 
  • best practice transfer; 
  • knowledge fairs; 
  • competence management (systematic evaluation and planning of competences of individual organization members); 
  • proximity & architecture (the physical situation of employees can be either conducive or obstructive to knowledge sharing;) 
  • master-apprentice relationship; 
  • collaborative technologies; 
  • knowledge repositories (databases, bookmarking engines, etc.); 
  • measuring and reporting intellectual capital; 
  • knowledge brokers (some organizational members take on responsibility for a specific "field" and act as first reference on whom to talk about a specific subject); 
  • social software (wikis, social bookmarking, blogs, etc.); 
  • inter-project knowledge transfer.

Typical motivations leading organizations to undertake a KM effort include:
  • Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services; 
  • Achieving shorter new product development cycles; 
  • Facilitating and managing innovation and organizational learning; 
  • Leveraging the expertise of people across the organization; 
  • Increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals; 
  • Managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work; 
  • Solving intractable or wicked problems; 
  • Managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals).

The technologies that aid knowledge management are: content management systems, collaboration software, knowledgebase applications, databases, web portals.

More recently, development of social computing tools (such as bookmarks, blogs, and wikis) have allowed more unstructured, self-governing or ecosystem approaches to the transfer, capture and creation of knowledge, including the development of new forms of communities, networks, or matrixed organizations.

Knowledge Management System

Knowledge Management System (KM System) refers to a system for managing knowledge in organizations for supporting creation, capture, storage, and dissemination of information. It can be a part of a knowledge management initiative.

The idea of a KM system is to enable employees to have ready access to the organization's documented base of facts, sources of information, and solutions. For example a typical claim justifying the creation of a KM system might run something like this: an engineer could know the metallurgical composition of an alloy that reduces sound in gear systems. Sharing this information organization-wide can lead to more effective engine design and it could also lead to ideas for new or improved equipment.

Distinguishing features of a KMS can include:

Purpose: a KMS will have an explicit Knowledge Management objective of some type such as collaboration, sharing good practice or the like.

Context: One perspective on KMS would see knowledge is information that is meaningfully organized, accumulated, and embedded in a context of creation and application.

Processes: KMS are developed to support and enhance knowledge-intensive processes, tasks or projects of e.g., creation, construction, identification, capturing, acquisition, selection, valuation, organization, linking, structuring, formalization, visualization, transfer, distribution, retention, maintenance, refinement, revision, evolution, accessing, retrieval and last but not least the application of knowledge, also called the knowledge life cycle.

Participants: Users can play the roles of active, involved participants in knowledge networks and communities fostered by KMS, although this is not necessarily the case. KMS designs are held to reflect that knowledge is developed collectively and that the "distribution" of knowledge leads to its continuous change, reconstruction and application in different contexts, by different participants with differing backgrounds and experiences.

Instruments: KMS support KM instruments, e.g., the capture, creation and sharing of information, the creation of corporate knowledge directories, taxonomies or ontologies, expertise locators, skill management systems, collaborative filtering and handling of interests used to connect people, the creation and fostering of communities or knowledge networks.

A KMS offers integrated services to deploy KM instruments for networks of participants, i.e. active knowledge workers, in knowledge-intensive business processes along the entire knowledge life cycle.

KMS can be used for a wide range of cooperative, collaborative, adhocracy and hierarchy communities, virtual organizations, societies and other virtual networks, to manage media contents; activities, interactions and work-flows purposes; projects; works, networks, departments, privileges, roles, participants and other active users in order to extract and generate new knowledge and to enhance, leverage and transfer in new outcomes of knowledge providing new services using new formats and interfaces and different communication channels.

The term KMS can be associated to Open Source Software, and Open Standards, Open Protocols and Open Knowledge licenses, initiatives and policies.

Benefits and Issues of knowledge management

Some of the advantages for KM systems are:
  • sharing of valuable organizational information throughout organizational hierarchy; 
  • avoid re-inventing the wheel, reducing redundant work; 
  • reduce training time for new employees; 
  • retention of intellectual property after the employee leaves; 
  • time management.
Knowledge Sharing remains a challenging issue. Barriers may include time issues for knowledge works, the level of trust, lack of effective support, technologies, and culture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Content Strategy

Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content. In other words, content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

The purpose of content strategy has been described as achieving business goals by maximizing the impact of content.

Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we are publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy is not strategy at all: it is just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants.

Content strategists strive to achieve content that is readable and understandable, but also findable, actionable and shareable in all of its various forms. Content strategy development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content.

A content strategy defines:
  • key themes and messages;
  • recommended topics;
  • content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements);
  • content gap analysis;
  • metadata and taxonomy frameworks and related content attributes;
  • search engine optimization (SEO);
  • implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance. 
Content strategy may include:

Editorial strategy 

Editorial strategy defines the guidelines by which all online content is governed: values, voice, tone, legal and regulatory concerns, user-generated content, and so on. This practice also defines an organization’s online editorial calendar, including content life cycles.

Web writing

Web writing is the practice of writing useful, usable content specifically intended for online publication. This is a whole lot more than smart copywriting. An effective web writer must understand the basics of user experience design, be able to translate information architecture documentation, write effective metadata, and manage an ever-changing content inventory.

Metadata and taxonomy strategy

Metadata and taxonomy strategy identifies the type and structure of metadata, also known as “data about data” (or content) and taxonomy. Smart, well-structured metadata helps publishers to identify, organize, use, and reuse content in ways that are meaningful to key audiences.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization is the process of editing and organizing the content on a page or across a web site (including metadata) to increase its potential relevance to specific search engine keywords.

Content management strategy

Content management strategy defines the technologies needed to capture, store, deliver, and preserve an organization’s content. Publishing infrastructures, content life cycles and workflows are key considerations of this strategy.

Content channel distribution strategy

Content channel distribution strategy defines how and where content will be made available to users.

The content life cycle is a repeatable system that governs the management of content. The processes within a given content lifecycle are system-agnostic. The processes are established as part of a content strategy, and implemented during the content life cycle.

Aspects of a content life cycle 

The content life cycle covers four macro stages: the strategic analysis, the content collection, management of the content, and publishing, which includes publication and post-publication activities. 

The content lifecycle is in effect whether the content is controlled within a content management system or not, whether it gets translated or not, whether it gets deleted at the end of its life or revised and re-used.

The analysis quadrant comprises the content strategy. The other three quadrants are more tactical in nature, focusing on the implementation of the content strategy.


In the analysis phase, the content life cycle is concerned with the strategic aspects of content. A content strategist (or business analyst or information architect or writer) examines the need for various types of content within the context of both the business and of the content consumers, and for multiple outputs on multiple platforms.

The analysis has a bearing on how the content strategy is implemented in the other quadrants of the content life cycle. On a new project with new content, this is the beginning of the process. Much of the time, the process will start somewhere else in the cycle; a lot depends on a multitude of factors involved in changing content from a current state to its future state.


Content collection includes the garnering of content for use within the framework set out in the analysis phase. Collection may be through content development - creating content or editing the content of others, content ingestion - syndication of content from other sources, or incorporation of localized content, or a hybrid of content integration and converge - such as integrating product descriptions from an outside organization with prices from a costing system, or the convergence of editorial and user-generated content from social media for simultaneous display.


The publishing quadrant deals with the aspects of content that happen when the content is delivered to its output platform and ensuing transformations, manipulations, or uses of the content. Publishing the content is only a point in the first life cycle iteration; there are post-publishing considerations such as re-use and retention policies that require attention.


The management quadrant is concerned with the efficient and effective use of content. In organizations using technology to automate the management of content, the management aspect assumes use of a content management system (CMS) of some sort. In organizations with smaller amounts of content, with little need for workflow control, and virtually no single-sourcing requirements, manual management is possible.

However, in large enterprises, there is too much content, and there are too many variations of content output, to manage the content without some sort of system to automate whatever functions can be automated. The content configuration potential is enormous, and builds on the information gathered during the analysis and collection phases.

The solutions will be highly situational, and revolve around the inputs and outputs, the required content variables, the complexity of the publishing pipeline, and the technologies in play. The most basic questions are around adoption of standards and technologies, and determining components, content granularity, and how far up or down the publishing pipeline to implement specific techniques.

At its core, content strategy is a way of thinking that has direct impact on the way we do business. And the way we do business must include a clear focus on how we create, deliver, and govern our content. Because more than ever before, content has become one of the most valuable business assets.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Information Governance

Information is the lifeblood of any modern-day business. Companies succeed or falter based on the reliability, availability and security of their data. A company's capacity to handle information depends upon a variety of factors, including engaged executives and a company culture that supports collective ownership of information.

However, strategically created enterprise-wide frameworks that define how information is controlled, accessed and used are the most critical elements in a successful information management program. This framework is information governance.

Information governance is the set of policies, procedures, processes, roles, metrics, and controls implemented to manage information on all media in such a way that it supports an organization's immediate and future regulatory, legal, risk, and operational requirements. It treats information as a valuable business asset and ensures the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. Information governance is a holistic approach to managing corporate information.

Organizations with good information governance know the who, what, when, where, why and how of their information:
  • What is this information?  
  • Who has access to this information? 
  • When was this information created or processed? 
  • Where is the information stored? 
  • What information is being retained? 
  • How long it is retained? 
  • How is this information being protected? 
  • How policies, standards, and regulations are enforced?
The goal of a holistic approach to information governance is to make information assets available to those who need it, while streamlining management, reducing storage costs and ensuring compliance. This, in turn, allows the company to reduce the legal risks associated with un-managed or inconsistently managed information and be more agile in response to a changing marketplace.

When a company fails to manage their information properly, it puts itself in jeopardy of violating compliance rules, damaging its brand equity, and paying hefty fines.

To implement or strengthen an information governance consider the following:
  • Define procedures, processes, and controls with users feedback. When they participate in the creating processes and procedures, they will agree with them.
  • Be clear at the outset about roles, responsibilities and accountability across the organization. Establish a central governance body with decision-making authority and cross-functional and geographic representation. Committees should plan to meet regularly and be sufficiently small and empowered to make decisions swiftly.
  • Top-down support is critical to the success of any information governance strategy. Senior management should be briefed regularly on projects and progress related to information governance.
  • Establish a formal and ongoing training to make employees aware of new policies and procedures and the reasoning behind them. Develop training sessions and annual governance refreshers to ensure that the entire organization is in-line with the information governance framework.
  • Enforce standards with flexibility. While some policies and procedures should be universal, certain business units and regions may need some leeway when it comes to process particularities. They should be free to determine the best course of action within the overall governance boundaries.
The future of information governance depends on continually evaluating policies and adapting them as business priorities and market conditions evolve. Just as an effective corporate governance strategy can yield competitive advantages, effective information governance can turn information into a more consistent generator of business value.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Information Architecture Methods

There are few methods that are used in information architecture. Some of common methods are: site maps, annotated page layouts, content matrices, page templates, personas, prototypes, storyboards, wireframes.

Site maps

Site maps are perhaps the most widely known and understood deliverable from the process of defining an information architecture. A site map is a high level diagram showing the hierarchy of a system. Site maps reflect the information structure, but are not necessarily indicative of the navigation structure.

Annotated page layouts

Page layouts define page level navigation, content types and functional elements. Annotations are used to provide guidance for the visual designers and developers who will use the page layouts to build the site. Page layouts are alternatively known as wireframes, blue prints or screen details.

Content matrix

A content matrix lists each page in the system and identifies the content that will appear on that page.

Page templates

Page templates may be required when defining large-scale websites and intranets. Page templates define the layout of common page elements, such as global navigation, content and local navigation. Page templates are commonly used when developing content management systems.


Persona is a fictional character with all the characteristics of the user. Personas are created after the field research process, which typically consists of members of the primary stakeholder (user) group being observed on their behavior, and additionally answering questionnaires or participating in interviews, or a mixture of both.


Prototypes are models of the system. Prototypes can be as simple as paper-based sketches, or as complex as fully interactive systems. Research shows that paper-based prototypes are just as effective for identifying issues as fully interactive systems. Prototypes are often developed to bring the information architecture to life. Thus enabling users and other members of the project team to comment on the architecture before the system is built.


Storyboards are another technique for bringing the information architecture to life without building it. Storyboards are sketches showing how a user would interact with a system to complete a common task. Storyboards enable other members of the project team to understand the proposed information architecture before the system is built.


Wireframes are rough illustrations of page content and structure, which may also indicate how users will interact with the website. These diagrams get handed off to a visual designer, who will establish page layout and visual design.

Wireframes are useful for communicating early design ideas and inform the designer and the client of exactly what information, links, content, promotional space, and navigation will be on every page of the site. Wireframes may illustrate design priorities in cases where various types of information appear to be competing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Analysis Tools Used in User-Centered Design

There are few tools that are used in user centered design. They are persona, scenarios, and essential use cases.


During the UCD process, a persona of the user's need may be created. It is a fictional character with all the characteristics of the user. Personas are created after the field research process, which typically consists of members of the primary stakeholder (user) group being observed on their behaviour, and additionaly answering questionnaires or participating in interviews, or a mixture of both.

After results are gathered from the field research, they are used to create personas of the primary stakeholder group. Often, there may be several personas concerning the same group of individuals, since it is almost impossible to apply all the characteristics of the stakeholder group onto one character. The character depicts the a "typical" stakeholder, not an "average" individual in the primary stakeholder group, and is referred to throughout the entire design process.

There are also what's called a secondary persona, where the character is not a member of the primary stakeholder group and is not the main target of the design, but their needs should be met and problems solved if possible. They exist to help account for further possible problems and difficulties that may occur even though the primary stakeholder group is satisfied with their solution.

There is also an anti-persona, which is the character which the design process is not made for. Personas usually include a name and picture, demographics, roles and responsibilities, goals and tasks, motivations and needs, environment and context, and a quote that can represent the character's personality.

Personas are useful in the sense that they create a common shared understanding of the user group for which the design process is built around. Also, they help to prioritize the design considerations by providing a context of what the user needs and what functions are simply nice to add and have. They can also provide a human face and existence to a diversified and scattered user group, and can also create some empathy and add emotions when referring to the users.

However, since personas are a generalized perception of the primary stakeholder group from collected data, the characteristics may be too broad and typical, or too much of an "average joe". Sometimes, personas can have stereotypical properties also. Overall, personas are a useful tool that can be used since designers in the design process can have an actual person to make design measure around other than referring to a set of data or a wide range of individuals.


A scenario created in the UCD process is a fictional story about the "daily life of" or a sequence of events with the primary stakeholder group as the main character. Typically, a persona that was created earlier is used as the main character of this story. The story should be specific of the events happening that relate to the problems of the primary stakeholder group, and normally the main research questions the design process is built upon.

These may turn out to be a simple story about the daily life of an individual, but small details from the events should imply details about the users, and may include emotional or physical characteristics. There can be the "best case scenario", where everything works out best for the main character, the "worst case scenario", where the main character experiences everything going wrong around him or her, and an "average case scenario", which is the typical life of the individual, where nothing really special or really depressing occurs, and the day just moves on.

Scenarios create a social context to which the personas exist in, and also create an actual physical world, instead of imagining a character with internal characteristics from gathered data an nothing else; there is more action involved in the persona's existence. A scenario is also more easily understood by people, since it is in the form of a story, and is easier to follow.

Use case

In short, a use case describes the interaction between an individual and the rest of the world. Each use case describes an event that may occur for a short period of time in real life, but may consist of intricate details and interactions between the actor and the world.

It is represented as a series of simple steps for the character to achieve his or her goal, in the form of a cause-and effect scheme. A use case should:

  • Describe what the system shall do for the actor to achieve a particular goal. 
  • Include no implementation-specific language. 
  • Be at the appropriate level of detail. 
  • Not include detail regarding user interfaces and screens. This is done in user-interface design, which references the use case and its business rules.

Use cases are useful because they help identify useful levels of design work. They allow the designers to see the actual low level processes that are involved for a certain problem, which makes the problem easier to handle, since certain minor steps and details the user makes are exposed. They also convey useful and important tasks where the designer can see which one are of higher importance than others.

Tomorrow: tools of information architecture.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

User-Centered Design

User-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product are given attention at each stage of the design process. 

User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and foresee how users are likely to use a product, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regards to user behaviour in real world tests with actual users. 

Such testing is necessary as it is often very difficult for the designers of a product to understand intuitively what a user of their design experiences, and what each user's learning curve may look like. The main difference from other product design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product. 

For example, the user-centered design process can help software designers to fulfill the goal of a product engineered for their users. User requirements are considered right from the beginning and included into the whole product cycle. These requirements are noted and refined through investigative methods including: ethnographic study, contextual inquiry, prototype testing, usability testing and other methods. 

Generative methods may also be used including: card sorting, affinity diagraming and participatory design sessions. In addition, user requirements can be understood by careful analysis of usable products similar to the product being designed. 

UCD answers questions about users and their tasks and goals, then uses the findings to make decisions about development and design. UCD of a web site, for instance, seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the users of the document? 
  • What are the users’ tasks and goals? 
  • What are the users’ experience levels with the document, and documents like it? 
  • What functions do the users need from the document? 
  • What information might the users need, and in what form do they need it? 
  • How do users think the document should work? 

As examples of UCD viewpoints, the essential elements of UCD of a web site are considerations of visibility, accessibility, legibility and language. 


Visibility helps the user construct a mental model of the document. Models help the user predict the effect(s) of their actions while using the document. Important elements (such as those that aid navigation) should be emphatic. Users should be able to tell from a glance what they can and cannot do with the document. 


Users should be able to find information quickly and easily throughout the document, regardless of its length. Users should be offered various ways to find information (such as navigational elements, search functions, table of contents, clearly labeled sections, page numbers, color coding, etc). Navigational elements should be consistent with the genre of the document. 

"Chunking" is a useful strategy that involves breaking information into small pieces that can be organized into some type meaningful order or hierarchy. The ability to skim the document allows users to find their piece of information by scanning rather than reading. Bold and italic words are often used. 


Text should be easy to read: Through analysis of the rhetorical situation, the designer should be able to determine a useful font style. Ornamental fonts and text in all capital letters are hard to read, but italics and bolding can be helpful when used correctly. Large or small body text is also hard to read. (Screen size of 10-12 pixel sans serif and 12-16 pixel serif is recommended.) High figure-ground contrast between text and background increases legibility. Dark text against a light background is most legible. 


Depending on the rhetorical situation, certain types of language are needed. Short sentences are helpful, as well as short, well-written texts used in explanations and similar bulk-text situations. Unless the situation calls for it, do not use jargon or technical terms. Many writers will choose to use active voice, verbs (instead of noun strings or nominals), and simple sentence structure. 

A user-centered design is focused around the rhetorical situation. The rhetorical situation shapes the design of an information medium. There are three elements to consider in a rhetorical situation: audience, purpose, and context. 


The audience is the people who will be using the document. The designer must consider their age, geographical location, ethnicity, gender, education, etc. 


The purpose is what the document is targeting to or what problem is the document trying to address. 


The context is the circumstances surrounding the situation. The context often answers the question: What situation has prompted the need for this document? Context also includes any social or cultural issues that may surround the situation. 

User-centered design involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, and designing for error.

Tomorrow, I will talk about analysis tools used in user-centered design.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Information Architecture and Usability

The distinction between information architecture and usability may seem like semantics, but there are significant differences between the two disciplines.

Though they are often discussed interchangeably, and practitioners are often well-versed in both, information architecture and usability differ in their scope and areas of focus.

The difference between information architecture and usability is important to understand because information architecture is more than just understanding what users want and need. A usability-only approach to information architecture is only one piece of the puzzle.

Information architecture problems often account for a large percentage of usability problems, but there are many other things unrelated to information architecture that have an impact on usability.

Usability encompasses two related concepts:

  • Usability is an attribute of the quality of a system: "we need to create a usable intranet". 
  • Usability is a process or set of techniques used during a design and development project: "we need to include usability activities in this project". 

In both cases usability is a broader concept, whereas information architecture is far more specific.

Usability is a detailed subject, taking into account things like font size, colors, visual proximity, usage context, search, error messages, navigation, form design, and labeling. Of these, only a few are true information architecture issues. Navigation, labeling, site architecture and search results all have an impact on the usability of a site, but they are not the only things that affect usability.

An effective information architecture is one of a number of attributes of a usable system. Other factors involving the usability of a system include:

  • visual design 
  • interaction design 
  • functionality 
  • content writing 

The process for creating an effective information architecture is a sub-set of the usability activities involved in a project. Although weighted to the beginning of the project, usability activities should continue throughout a project and evaluate issues beyond simply the information architecture.

In terms of great usability information architecture, it is the information architecture that makes it easy for users to find desired information or functionality. On a website, the information architecture can also add important context to the current page (for example when a user begins their visit deep within the website, having come directly from a search engine).

A "bricks and mortar" architect must balance the demands of aesthetics, structural integrity, heating, lighting, water supply and drainage when creating building blueprints. Similarly, an information architect must create navigation schemes for web sites, content management systems, etc. that are at once concise, descriptive, mutually-exclusive, and intuitive. Both types of architects seek to create spaces for humans that are safe, predictable, enjoyable, and inspiring.

Usable navigation systems should: 
  • Be easy to learn. 
  • Be consistent throughout the web site, CMS, etc. 
  • Provide feedback, such as the use of breadcrumbs to indicate how to navigate back to where the user started. 
  • Use the minimum number of clicks to arrive at the next destination. 
  • Use clear and intuitive labels, based on the user’s perspective and terminology. 
  • Support user tasks. 
  • Have each link distinct from other links. 
  • Group navigation into logical units. 
  • Avoid making the user scroll to get to important navigation or submit buttons. 
  • Not disable the browser’s back button. 

Steps to develop an intuitive information architecture: 

1. Find out what the mission or purpose of the website is: why will people come to your site?
2. Determine the immediate and long-range goals of the site: are they different?
3. Pinpoint the intended audiences and conduct a requirements analysis for each group.
4. Collect site content and develop a content inventory.
5. Determine the website’s organizational structure, which can include:
    • hierarchical
    • narrow and deep 
    • broad and shallow 
    • sequential  
    • tag-based 
    6. Create an outline of the site, which can include:
    • Content Inventory: a hierarchical view of the site content, typically in a spreadsheet format, which briefly describes the content that should appear on each page and indicates where pages belong in terms of global and local navigation. 
    • Site Maps: visual diagrams that reflect site navigation and main content areas. They are usually constructed to look like flowcharts and show how users will navigate from one section to another. Other formats may also indicate the relationships between pages on the site. 
    7. Create a visual blueprint of the site, which can include:
    • Wireframes: rough illustrations of page content and structure, which may also indicate how users will interact with the website. These diagrams get handed off to a visual designer, who will establish page layout and visual design. Wireframes are useful for communicating early design ideas and inform the designer and the client of exactly what information, links, content, promotional space, and navigation will be on every page of the site. Wireframes may illustrate design priorities in cases where various types of information appear to be competing. 
    8. Define the navigation systems:
    • Global navigation: Global navigation is the primary means of navigation through a website. Global navigation links appear on every page of the site, typically as a menu located at the top or side of each web page. 
    • Local navigation: Local links may appear as text links within the content of a page or as a submenu for a section of the website. Local navigation generally appears in the left-hand margin of a web page and sometimes is placed below the global navigation. 
    • Utility links: Utility links appear in the header or footer of every page. These may include infrequently used links such as: Contact Us, About Us, Customer Support, Customer Feedback, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, Site Map, Press Room, etc. Search boxes often appear in the header of the site as well, so the Search feature is available on every page of the site. 
    9. Conduct user research. Once you have a draft navigation structure, conduct appropriate usability research to collect feedback from the target audience. Methods may include: card sorting, cognitive walkthroughs, contextual task analyses, and usability testing.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Information Architecture Styles

    There are two main approaches to defining an information architecture. They are:

    Top-down information architecture

    This involves developing a broad understanding of the business strategies and user needs, before defining the high level structure of site, and finally the detailed relationships between content.

    Bottom-up information architecture 

    This involves understanding the detailed relationships between content, creating walkthroughs (or storyboards) to show how the system could support specific user requirements and then considering the higher level structure that will be required to support these requirements.

    Both of these techniques are important in a project. A project that ignores top-down approach may result in well-organized, findable content that does not meet the needs of users or the business. A project that ignores bottom-up approach may result in a site that allows people to find information but does not allow them the opportunity to explore related content. Take a structured approach to creating an effective information architecture.

    The following steps define a process for creating an effective information architecture:
    1. Understand the business/contextual requirements and the proposed content for the system. Read all existing documentation, interview stakeholders and conduct a content inventory.
    2. Conduct cards sorting exercises with a number of representative users.
    3. Evaluate the output of the card sorting exercises. Look for trends in grouping and labeling.
    4. Develop a draft information architecture (i.e. information groupings and hierarchy).
    5. Evaluate the draft information architecture using the card-based classification evaluation technique.
    6. Don’t expect to get the information architecture right first time. Capturing the right terminology and hierarchy may take several iterations.
    7. Document the information architecture in a site map. This is not the final site map, the site map will only be finalized after page layouts have been defined.
    8. Define a number of common user tasks, such as finding out about how to request holiday leave. On paper sketch page layouts to define how the user will step through the site. This technique is known as storyboarding.
    9. Walk other members of the project team through the storyboards and leave them in shared workspaces for comments.
    10. If possible within the constraints of the project, it is good to conduct task-based usability tests on paper prototypes as it provides valuable feedback without going to the expense of creating higher quality designs. Create detailed page layouts to support key user tasks. Page layouts should be annotated with guidance for visual designers and developers.
    Developing an information architecture in this way enables you to design and build a system confident that it will be successful. It simply isn’t good enough for organizations to build functionality or write content, put it on their computer systems and expect people to be able to find it.

    Developing an effective information architecture is an essential step in the development of all computer systems. Effective information architectures enable people to quickly, easily and intuitively find content. This avoids frustration and increases the chance that the user will return to the system the next time they require similar information.

    Remember: people can only appreciate what they can actually find.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Information Architecture

    Information architecture is defined by the Information Architecture Institute as the art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities, and software to support findability and usability.

    Information architecture is the term used to describe the structure of a system, i.e the way information is grouped, the navigation methods and terminology used within the system. An effective information architecture enables people to step logically through a system confident they are getting closer to the information they require. Information architecture is most commonly associated with websites and intranets, content management systems, but it can be used in the context of any information structures or computer systems.

    Information architecture involves the categorization of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that the intended audience can understand quickly, if not inherently, and then easily retrieve the information for which they are searching. The organization structure is usually hierarchical.

    Organizing functionality and content into a structure that people are able to navigate intuitively doesn’t happen by chance. Organizations must recognize the importance of information architecture or else they run the risk of creating great content and functionality that no one can ever find. Most people only notice information architecture when it is poor and stops them from finding the information they require.

    An effective information architecture comes from understanding business objectives and constraints, the content, and the requirements of the people that will use the site.

    Information architecture is often described using the following diagram:


    Understanding an organization's business objectives, politics, culture, technology, resources and constraints is essential before considering development of the information architecture. Techniques for understanding context include:
    • reading existing documentation;
    • mission statements, organization charts, previous research and vision documents are a quick way of building up an understanding of the context in which the system must work;
    • stakeholder interviews;
    • speaking to stakeholders provides valuable insight into business context and can unearth previously unknown objectives and issues. 

    The most effective method for understanding the quantity and quality of content (i.e. functionality and information) proposed for a system is to conduct a content inventory. Content inventories identify all of the proposed content for a system, where the content currently resides, who owns it and any existing relationships between content. Content inventories are also commonly used to aid the process of migrating content between the old and new systems.


    An effective information architecture must reflect the way people think about the subject matter. Techniques for getting users involved in the creation of an information architecture include card sorting and card-based classification evaluation.

    Card sorting involves representative users sorting a series of cards, each labelled with a piece of content or functionality, into groups that make sense to them. Card sorting generates ideas for how information could be grouped and labelled.

    Card-based classification evaluation is a technique for testing an information architecture before it has been implemented. The technique involves writing each level of an information architecture on a large card, and developing a set of information-seeking tasks for people to perform using the architecture.

    More about information architecture next time...