A company intranet is a kind of private website that contains information and resources for people working in your company. If you don’t have one, you can stop reading now.
You do have an intranet? Great – this is your chance to get constructive ideas about how to improve it, for free.
Nielsen Norman Group
Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) is a respected authority on web usability, the art of making websites easier for people to use. Led by Jakob Nielsen, NN/g offers advice, training and consultancy to all kinds of organisations.
Nielsen himself writes a regular column about usability. It’s practically required reading for web designers – and useful to the rest of us too.
Improve your intranet
Anyway, NN/g is looking for participants in a piece of research into the usability of company intranets. If your business fits the bill, what they’re offering in return for your participation could be quite attractive. Put your intranet forward for the study and, if you qualify, you’ll get:
We haven’t added up the value of all that, but usability testing doesn’t usually come cheap, especially from industry experts. And just working through the process would give you an insight into exactly how you can improve your company’s intranet.
Interested? Well, you will have to devote some time to the project, and the application process is quite involved. So to find out more, just check out the information on the NN/g site. If you do put your name forward, let us know how you get on.
And there it goes again. That’s the third time today that my ******ing PC has crashed on me. And no, I didn’t save. So yes, I have to start the whole thing from scratch.
WHY do we still have these problems? I ditched my typewriter for a PC more than twenty years ago, yet here we are in 2010 and, well, there goes that familiar reboot tune.
We buy new, faster computers because they’re capable of dealing with new, more feature-rich software - which is then superseded by yet more feature-rich software, demanding we buy more computers.
So there’s a choice. We can enter a hellish world of upgrades or step off the merry-go-round and stick with what we’ve got until it expires / isn’t compatible with anything / makes visiting clients laugh like a drain.
We've come to expect our PCs to have a shelf life of just three to four years. That’s surely absurd when televisions can go on for decades while my old Sony radio dates back to the 1980s. I've not needed to buy more memory or upgrade a processor in order to watch BBC1 or pick up the Shipping Forecast, so must we resign ourselves to an endless PC upgrade path when we’re busy trying to run our businesses, thank you very much?
Perhaps things are changing. Google, Microsoft and others are racing to offer us a ‘web app’ alternative to our less than trusty, PC-based office packages. You access the software and your files over the internet through your browser, and in theory you hardly notice the difference. They’re not quite there yet, but the latest web apps are close in functionality and performance to their ‘normal’ software cousins.
The pros? Less strain on the PC, upgrades which happen automatically, and possibly a longer lifespan for your next PC. The cons? Perhaps monthly subscriptions in place of irregular upgrade costs, and the understandable concern that sensitive data might become stranded on some data farm in the American mid-west.
This is where the IT Donut comes in. We’ll run the rule over the latest web apps, telling you all you need to know to make an informed, unbiased decision on your next piece of IT expenditure. And seeing as we’re writing from the perspective of the small business owner - not the techie, geek or fan-boy obsessive - it’ll be advice you can rely on.
Eight years ago I had to watch the World Cup in between exams. I have a less-than-fond memory of school delaying the start of the day by half an hour just so we could watch Brazil beat England at the crack of dawn.
Four years ago was my first World Cup where I didn’t have to construct an intricate timetable incorporating revision and football on TV. This was on account that a) it was being hosted in Europe and b) I was between university degrees. It was great.
Football on your desktop
This time round, the World Cup is not being hosted close to home, but neither is it so far away as to impact on timings. Unfortunately, I am now in employment and was unable to view the earlier matches.
That is until I discovered my lunch hour is in perfect alignment with the first half of the 1230 kick offs. And, thanks to advances in IT, the BBC and ITV have made it possible for me to satiate my need to watch too much football with a coffee in a cafe via my netbook. I even managed to stream a game from the comfort of my dentist’s waiting room on my phone.
Business IT on the move
Eight years ago, IT systems in many small businesses may have been no more than a well-used fax machine and a computer for basic word processing tasks or rudimentary data entry.
Four years ago the internet was creeping its way in to the workplace, changing the systems by which we conduct business. Small businesses benefited from the introduction of office networks and, of course, the ability to communicate, share and conduct business with the larger network of the world wide web.
Today, IT is central to most businesses. It is the means by which we have ecommerce. It enables greater number crunching and is a rapid facilitator of communication. There is now also a vast pool of IT support resources available to make the implementation of small business IT a smoother experience.
IT has come a long way. And although we do turn to IT support when things go wrong, when they go right, IT is such a valuable aspect of our business and social lives that it’s an important support system in itself.