My second tip in this series is very simple however it is something people often overlook.
You should make your People Search & Information Search accessible ALL THE TIME. This means having the search fields visible on every page of your Intranet and preferably in the same position on each.
My current Intranet has slightly more that 5000 daily users and every month our usage statistics confirm that the most heavily used functions are People Search & Information Search. Our usage stats for last month were:
The figures quoted above may indicate to many that the Intranet is just used as an expansive & expensive phone book and its true that some of my users have in the past commented that they only use the Intranet to look up contact numbers. Regardless, if the function is useful and widely used then I should make it as easy to access as possible.
It is interesting to note the figures also illustrate that the Information Search is used a lot less that the People Search. This may be an indication that the site search function is not as useful or reliable as possible. We are continually tuning our search engine and keep an eye on this figure to monitor if usage increases. Of course the smaller usage figure may just mean that my Information Architecture and Navigation is so good and intuitive that users have no need to use the site search! (Yeah right, that's it for sure - I just looked out the window and saw a pig fly by ;).
The image below shows how our Information & People Search fields are formatted. This component is presented in the top right corner of every section of the Intranet.
The following images are snapshots of three different sections of our Intranet and demonstrates how the People & Information search facility remains accessable from wherever the user chooses to navigate to.
As I explained in my opening, this tip may seem obvious to many however I believe it is worth mentioning as simple things are sometimes easily overlooked when managing the design of a large and extensive Intranet site.