The Need for Web Design Standards

The entire concept of “Web design” is a misnomer. Individual project teams are not designing the Web any more than individual ants are designing an anthill. Site designers build components of a whole, especially now that users are viewing the entirety of the Web as a single, integrated resource.

Unfortunately, much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD: many sites don’t fit into the big picture, and are too difficult to use because they deviate from expected norms.

Several design elements are common enough that users expect them to work in a certain way. Here’s my definition of three different standardization levels:

  • Standard: 80% or more of websites use the same design approach. Users strongly expect standard elements to work a certain way when they visit a new site because that’s how things always work.
  • Convention: 50-79% of websites use the same design approach. With a convention, users expect elements to work a certain way when they visit a new site because that’s how things usually work.
  • Confusion: with these elements, no single design approach dominates, and even the most popular approach is used by at most 49% of websites. For such design elements, users don’t know what to expect when they visit a new site.

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Iran's Halal Internet Coming Soon?

If you’re a government that believes the Internet “promotes crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism” there seem to be two options: unplug or roll your own.

Reports are appearing that indicate Iran’s going with the latter and will launch of a countrywide intranet to save the masses from online evils.

Via the International Business Times:

Millions of Internet users in Iran will be permanently denied access to the World Wide Web and cut off from popular social networking sites and email services, as the government has announced its plans to establish a national Intranet within five months.

In a statement released Thursday, Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology, announced the setting up of a national Intranet and the effective blockage of services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran’s plan for a “clean Internet.”

The government is set to roll out the first phase of the project in May, following which Google, Hotmail and Yahoo services will be blocked and replaced with government Intranet services like Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine. At this stage, however, the World Wide Web, apart from the aforementioned sites, will still be accessible.

In a follow-up, the IBT reports that Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology denies they’ll block Iranians’ access to the wider Web and blames information about it on Western propaganda.

The idea of an Iranian Internet isn’t new. Last year, Al Jazeera among others reported that the effort was in the works, with Technology Review writing:

It would be unlikely, but not technically impossible, for Iran to step up its censorship and filtering regime to create this “halal Internet.” After all, most Cubans, for example, are priced out of the actual Internet and steered towards the Cuban equivalent, which is restricted to an internal e-mail network, and a handful of pro-government sites. In a similar vein, the Chinese Internet is limited largely only to websites that the government doesn’t view as threatening.

Replying is not enough

Within your company, if you’re publishing and distributing material (intranet, company magazine et cetera) you should take note of the people who send you feedback. You should learn the names of the people who point out errors, or ask for further information, or ask for clarification. These people care about what you’ve produced, and they’re the ones who will be talking about your stuff to their colleagues, team members and managers.

Whatever people have to say about your work or your messages, be sure to respond in a positive and respectful manner. I see too many professionals responding to brief query emails with even briefer answers. Answering the query is not enough – this is a real opportunity to engage directly with the audience, the workforce, and have a personal impact.

Answering the query is not enough; you must:

- demonstrate that you’ve have heard and understood the query / concern – this means reflecting back their very own sentiments to the querent without judgment. Consider it ‘active listening’;

- explain that you can understand why they’ve brought this matter up with you;

- thank them for bringing the matter to you (as opposed to just grumbling about it to everyone in their department);

- address the matter directly, explaining enough of your background thought processes to justify your answer – there’s no need to be aggressive or defensive, just be conversational;

- demonstrate your willingness to be flexible; let them know that you might well consider this issue again in the future or perhaps you’ll discuss it with your team / manager at your next team meeting;

- thank them again for their email / phone call and let them know you’re open and available for anything more.

Does that sound do-able? Is it close to what you do already?

Mid-Year Evaluation of Your Social Intranet | The Social Workplace

So, technically it’s past the mid-year point, but in the HR technology world… this is the time that mid year reviews are completed. And it got me to thinking about the social technology goals that I had outlined for this year and where I currently stand with them. And I invite you to do the same.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as far as I’d like: shrinking budgets, reorganized resources and modified priorities have slowed down my progress of creating a social experience for employees. I imagine that I’m not the only one in this situation. So, to break the ice, I thought I would provide a little insight into the projects I’ve been working on, what I accomplished and where I hope to go in the second half of the year (and beyond).

What I did accomplish was a lot of movement and growing appreciation from my matrixed organization on the importance of creating an overall experience rather than siloed ones, and an overall understanding that sometimes the quickest and easiest route isn’t the most scalable by IT teams or adopted by the employee base. We have implemented what is considered to be “low hanging fruit” at the same time as taking our time and performing due diligence on more complex solutions.


Nice Video (if a little sales-y) here from IBM about social business / the social Intranet ~ Great slide ½ way through criticising SharePoint for treating people like folders and files…

Synco: una Internet para el pueblo

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¡El gallo pa´ visionario! Gringos copiaron la idea y ahora nos quieren sacar la foto a todos.

El proyecto cibernético de planificación económica en tiempo real, Synco (Sistema de Información y Control), es uno de los emprendimientos más revolucionarios y menos conocidos desarrollados bajo el mandato del presidente Salvador Allende.

“Es revolucionario, no sólo porque es la primera vez que se realiza en el mundo, sino también porque estamos ante un esfuerzo deliberado para darle a la gente el poder que la ciencia nos da, para que pueda usarlo libremente”.

Esto es parte del discurso que pronunciaría el inspirador de este proyecto: el sicólogo y filósofo británico Stafford Beer (1926-2002) en la inauguración de Synco, que iba a realizarse en La Moneda, en septiembre de 1973 (En


En noviembre de 1970, cuando accede al Gobierno Salvador Allende, Corfo administraba 80 industrias, a las que pronto se sumarían cuatro centenares de empresas estatizadas que se incorporarían al área social de la economía. A pesar de la experiencia desarrollada en la gestación de la industrialización, Corfo no contaba con mecanismos adecuados de dirección y planificación.

“Eran muchos los casos en que detallados datos inundaban los escritorios de los ejecutivos de alto nivel, y estos no podían analizarlos oportunamente, y así tomar decisiones a tiempo. A eso se agregaba que la información era histórica y por eso, en el momento que se tomaba conciencia de ella, era tan tarde que, o bien los acontecimientos ya se habían precipitado, o las circunstancias habían cambiado de tal manera que la información era obsoleta”, según afirmó el ingeniero Raúl Espejo en el documento La práctica industrial en Chile (Corfo, 1973).

En un principio se abordó este problema ampliando la burocracia de gerencias y subgerencias pero estas sólo fueron capaces de constatar los problemas de información y dirección que había, mas no de resolverlos.

Entonces surgió en la Corfo “la necesidad de estructurar sistemas de información que, incorporando una tecnología avanzada, se fundamentaran en conceptos cibernéticos de gestión”, señaló Espejo.

A fines de 1971, con el respaldo de Beer, Corfo inició el desarrollo de un Sistema de Información para el control de la información en tiempo real (Synco). El control en tiempo real era una de las ideas centrales de Beer: “si todo está cambiando muy rápidamente lo que necesita un gobierno es información instantánea. Si sus informaciones están obsoletas sus decisiones serán peor que desacertadas”.


Resulta espectacular descubrir que en el Chile de Allende, en sólo cuatro meses, se conectaron las principales industrias con computadoras instaladas en la Empresa Nacional de Comunicaciones (Ecom) ubicada en Santiago. Para conseguir esto se usaba una combinación de líneas de telex y de microondas. Este sistema –llamado Cybernet-, que no existía en ninguna otra parte del mundo, se comenzó a implementar en noviembre de 1971.

En octubre de 1972 el sistema ya se encontraba casi plenamente operativo y dos terceras partes de las empresas controladas por el Estado estaban integradas a esta red, denominada por algunos como “la internet de Allende”.

Este proyecto mostró su valía con ocasión del paro de camioneros de octubre de 1972. Entonces el Gobierno contaba sólo con unos 400 camiones para distribuir mercaderías en todo Chile. Pero el milagro se hizo: empleando la información despachada por los teletipos, La Moneda pudo coordinar la entrega de alimentos y derrotar temporalmente este boicot.

En pleno desarrollo de Synco, Beer expresó: “Ocurre que las herramientas científicas nunca se les acepta como herramientas del pueblo y en todas partes las gentes se sienten divorciadas de las ciencias que es esencialmente suya (…) Es por eso que en Chile buscamos que los sistemas en que hemos trabajado los usen tanto los trabajadores como los ministros de Estado. Es por eso que estamos desarrollando sistemas de retroalimentación para que el pueblo se comunique con su Gobierno” (conferencia “Práctica cibernética en el Gobierno”, dictada en Brighton, el 14 de febrero de 1973).

Beer cuenta qué ocurrió cuando –en noviembre de 1971- le explicó al presidente Allende por primera vez el modelo cibernético de un sistema viable. “Dibujé para él todo el sistema (…) basándome en la versión neurofisiológica del modelo dado que él es médico. El sistema comprende cinco niveles jerárquicos, y le fui explicando de abajo hacia arriba (…) al llegar al quinto nivel asumí un gesto teatral para decirle: ‘Y éste, Compañero Presidente, es usted’. Pero el Presidente se me anticipó y con una ancha sonrisa dijo: ¡por fin!, el Pueblo’”. Allende quedó deslumbrado con Beer y su proyecto y de inmediato le brindó su apoyo.

El símbolo principal de Synco es la futurista sala de operaciones. “Si ese nombre les recuerda a algunos un cuartel general de guerra es porque la referencia es totalmente intencionada. Es así porque la sala de operaciones exhibe en forma muy gráfica la información en tiempo real para la toma inmediata de decisiones”, señaló Beer.

La sala era hexagonal e incluía siete sillas giratorias que fueron fabricadas en un taller de Puente Alto. Estas tenían en su brazo derecho una serie de botones que activaban proyecciones en las pantallas dispuestas en la sala. En el izquierdo había un cenicero y un posavasos.

“La sala de operaciones se parece a una escenografía para una película futurista, pero no se trata de ciencia ficción. Se trata de ciencia real. Existe y funciona, y lo hace tanto para el trabajador como para el ministro”, señaló Beer en 1973.

Como tantos otros proyectos valiosos, Synco murió con el Golpe, y Stafford Beer, destrozado por la muerte de su amigo Allende y de su sueño cibernético, renunció a todos sus bienes materiales y se fue a vivir a Gales donde se dedicó a la pintura y la poesía.

Por Francisco Marín

El Ciudadano Nº146 / Clarín Nº6.293

Septiembre 2013


Imagine your have 1000 employees at your company and they loose 1 hour per week per employee searching but not finding the information they want on the Intranet. This makes you a total of 1000 lost hours a day and 5000 lost hours a week and more than 20000 hours a month. Imagine that an average  working hour  costs you 20€. Then you are loosing 20€ x 20000 (hours/month) x 12 (months). That makes a total of 480 000 € a year.

You can reduce this lost time in productivity by implementing new usability guidelines, invest only 20% of the estimated loss in usability (about 100 000 €) and you will improve productivity of your employees by offering a better user interface.

Every single euro invested in usability has a direct effect on productivity when it comes to intranet.

(Re)invest in usability.

To be continued ..

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North Korean children use computers at Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace.

While Internet access is limited to visiting foreigners and the nation’s elite party officials (Kim Jong Il was said to love “surfing the net”), North Korea does have a rudimentary intranet network operating exclusively within its borders. This network provides heavily censored news and educational resources to students (at all levels) like the ones seen here. It is not in any way connected to the worldwide Internet and all content must be approved by the government in advance.

Taking Drupal Public

After years of having our company Intranet on the web, I made the case to our IT and leadership that in the new version, we should put it behind our firewall. I had two reasons:

  1. Security: It’s just innately more secure to have this only available internally. Hackers run rampant, and are usually indiscriminate. It seems like a risk to take, even if it’s an outside chance.
  2. Employee adoption: If employees don’t have to log in to view the intranet, they’re more likely to use it. 

Employees do have to log in to see benefits content. As mentioned in a previous post, we are using Nodeaccess to show employees different content based on what Active Directory groups they are in using the LDAP module, since employees in other countries have different benefits than those in the US. It’s working well.

Cue monkey wrench.

I won’t bore anyone with details, but suffice it to say we’re having issues with the site only being available on our network. 

I’m contemplating how I can make this work, and I think it could be as simple as just making the front page a log in page and redirecting to the current front page. That would involve protecting each created page so far, however - going in and checking the right box for “all employees” where applicable. Ugh.

Of course, I haven’t researched this yet. That is one of the main reasons I chose Drupal for our intranet and our corporate website - incredible community support and tutorials, coupled with robust power.

Anyone else created an intranet that wasn’t really an intranet on Drupal?

…characterizing portals as mere doorways to other places no longer adequately describes the sophisticated role they play. Today’s portals are not just about access; the best ones provide true integration of enterprise information, resources, and tools in a unified user experience. The portal is a dashboard that offers all the enterprise information and applications that employees need to do their jobs.
—  Nielsen