Summer 2016 Project: Back at Fujitsu for Their Intranet

Brandon Harwood
Nov 26, 2016 · 4 min read

Or: The Woes of SharePoint for Someone Who’s Never Used SharePoint.

This last summer I found myself back with the awesome web dev team at FNC in Richardson, TX. I was tasked with the redesign of the Infrastructure Services departmental intranet. The one they currently had going for them was definitely not working for them much. It was 15 years old, bloated with now-irrelevant features, and it needed a tuneup. I document my process below:

Let’s start with the problem:

tldr: Through heuristic evaluation and user interviews I concluded the site had usability problems including dead or missing links, unclear IA, it’s visual design didn’t follow brand guidelines, and users actively avoided the site.

So, to put it bluntly, this website was a dinosaur compared to modern standards. It was inefficient, stressful to use, and users avoided it as much as they could. I dove in, making notes of the content and the layout of the information architecture, and starting the process of gathering data.

When checking out the site, there were a few things that stood out right away. It wasn’t responsive at all. This wasn’t surprising, responsive design wasn’t a thing during the initial site design. It also didn’t seem to follow Fujitsu’s design guidelines. There was a clear hierarchy of purple and blue colors, Fujitsu, much like a painted zebra, is all black, red, and white.

Next, I mapped out the site, looking for any interesting flaws. There were quite a few links that either didn’t work, or, when you clicked on them, gave you a pop-up that said “coming soon!” I learned after talking with my coworkers that those messages had been around for a good number of years.

Once comfortable with the site, it’s layout, and how it worked on a base level, I needed to know what the people who actually used it thought. I conducted some interviews with stakeholders like managers and users like department administrators. I also included a button at the bottom of the page to give visiting users an option to discuss their experience.

Some of the major feedback I got included some pain points, as well as some general insights on use of the site. Those who use the site do so to request services, troubleshoot tickets, etc.

People use the site because they need help.

However, there are a number of problems with how they helped their employees. For example, it’s difficult to tell when the next outage will be.

So let’s talk about the solution:

After learning about all that was wrong with the site I began the design process. I like to start with drawing out the designs because it’s quick, easy to iterate, and I can get immediate feedback (instead of losing it in email hell).

Once I received enough feedback, I went onto bringing what I was comfortable with into a easily digestible low-fi digital mockup.

Once we were set on that design, I added color, interactions, and dummy content.

And then came implementation.

First off, let me just give my condolences to anyone who develops for SharePoint. This was my first time working with it, and, while I’m happy with the end-result, I don’t consider myself a dev. Especially a SharePoint dev.

The implementation process included a good number of hacky solutions, sweat, and maybe a tear or two. But I ended up with this in the end:

And I think it’s pretty neat.

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