I was in full intranet governance mode, reviewing the articles written by a publisher. “Hmm,” I said. “You’ve not really optimised your writing for the web, I recommend reading some articles by Jakob Nielsen” . “The structure of these articles aren’t really user-centric either, have a look at the book ‘Information Architecture‘ “. “Oh and I have some concerns about the use of graphics, try reading Krug’s ‘Don’t make me think‘ “.
At that point my wife interrupted me. “Firstly,” she interjected in a world weary tone, “It’s not an intranet site, it’s our child’s school diary”. “Secondly, he’s only seven and doesn’t really need to read a book on Information Architecture”.
I considered pointing out she hadn’t covered the weakness of the graphics, the textual element of the page seemed to mainly be about playing a Nintendo and having pizza for tea, yet the graphic showed a child on a bike. Quite a good graphic actually, but not obviously relevant. It didn’t even have a suitable alt attribute. I let it go though, I know that look they were both giving me.
Recommending books and web sites about best practice for web sites is all well and good, but the range of good books is quite small, this set me thinking that there are lots to learn for other disciplines, so here is my five books that have nothing to do with intranets that contain useful lessons.
What it’s about: Personal productivity book, helps you keep on top of the information flow.
Why it’s a good read: Its fun to read, especially the early chapters where he lays out the concepts. One of the main concepts is to get things out of your head and into a ‘container’ you can rely on.
Why it’s useful to intranet managers: Aside from the need to get organised, its a great insight into what we can do to help other people. It reminds us that an intranet manager’s job is basically providing safe containers.
What it’s about: It’s a collection of articles about science journalism
Why it’s a good read: It’s fun to read. Witty, amusing and insightful reports of where the press (and others) mis-represent science.
Why it’s useful to intranet managers: You need a powerful BS detector, and Goldacre is one of the best. We all know the ‘power of story telling’ and it’s powerful indeed, but if we are ever tempted to take one anecdote and extrapolate that to a general rule of behavior, then this book will innoculate you.
What it’s about: A collection of TV show reviews.
Why it’s a good read: It’s fun to read. Brooker is vicious, and his near apoplectic rants on vacuous inanities served up as entertainment is compelling. Absouslutely drills right into the heart of why so much TV is rubbish.
Why it’s useful to intranet managers: If you’ve ever been tempted to add a flash intro screen, you know – “to make a site more interesting” then reading Brooker will innoculate you.
What it’s about: A collection of illusions, tricks and brain games
Why it’s a good read: It’s fun to read. Full of ‘well I never’ moments when you see explanations of how the brain really works.
Why it’s useful to intranet managers: Perhaps a serious academic work on the psychology of perception would be more appropriate, but that’s going to be boring. Understanding how a user actually views a screen, and that might not work the way you think it does helps you look at an intranet page and see the problems on it.
What it’s about: A collection of mass psychology experiments
Why it’s a good read: It’s fun to read. Again, it a book that says, don’t assume people behave logically or systematically.
Why it’s useful to intranet managers: People don’t behave rationally or predictably. This book shows this, and you’ll never be tempted to simply clone a good idea from another context and expect it to work. What you want to find out is actual behaviour – and you get that from observing.
Anyone got anymore recommendations, the less obvious the better – any fiction that folks should read (1984? grin).