Finding the needle just got a bit easier
Fri, 14 Feb 2020

We're making it easier for you to find the information you regularly search for.

We hear you, and agree, the intranet search is painful. We've all done it, needed some information that we suspect is somewhere on the intranet, but trying to find it - well that's a job in itself!

As specialists in online user behaviour, we know that a great search is key to the success of our new intranet and that's why we'll be making improvements all the way through our intranet redesign project. For most of us, when we are looking for something specific, search is the first thing we try when visiting a new website, and if it doesn't work, we'll probably never visit the site again.


So why is the search so difficult to use?

Over the last few months, we've been looking at the search statistics, reviewing your feedback and testing the search ourselves and we've found lots of reasons why it just doesn't work the way we expect it to. These include:

The intranet is a whopper

The intranet has over 3,500 pages and almost 36,000 documents. This is huge - it's three times as big as the corporate website. Most of these pages and documents are either out of date or no longer required.

Multiple versions of pages and documents

Pages and documents often haven't been deleted when a new version has been created or uploaded. This means the search displays multiple results and you can't be sure which is the correct version. It's not clear if you'll be taken to a newly created page or an old, potentially unreliable page of information, before you make your choice.

Key search terms are not recognised

When you enter a search term, the search looks through all the pages on the intranet. If the page you are expecting to see doesn't have the word you have entered associated with it then it will not be displayed in the search results. 

This often happens because we use different words to mean the same thing, for example several search terms have been used relating to pay scales such as salary, scale and points. We can improve the search by making sure all these alternative search terms are applied to the page so the search knows to display them in the results. 


What have we done so far

We have introduced a search as you type (SAYT) tool that starts to provide options when at least two characters are entered. The SAYT option differs from the old intranet search as you can select an option before typing the whole search term and waiting to be presented with the full list of results.

Started to review the existing pages

In our previous blog called Use it? Don't lose it we spoke about our plans to review all of the intranet pages and start having a clear out. This will help as fewer pages and documents will appear and provide more reliable results. It's important you continue to tell us about the pages you would like to keep - using our feedback form - so we can consider how these are displayed moving forward.

Created a policies directory

We've also made a start on the documents by creating two directories for staff policies (corporate and schools). Currently we have only added the HR policies. You can read more about this in our blog called, The path to policies is changing. We will continue to add more policies to the directory over the next few months so if you are responsible for any policy documents let us know so we can work with you. Email us at intranet@eastriding.gov.uk   

Researched your search terms

We're also keeping an eye on Google Analytics as this tells us what you have been searching for. We have added the top 25 search results from the last three months as keywords to the relevant pages based on search terms you have entered most often.

These are:

  1. grapevine
  2. jobs    
  3. masterpiece 
  4. gis      
  5. itrent  
  6. p2p
  7. recruitment   
  8. care act         
  9. pay scales    
  10. edr     
  11. scale points  
  12. recruiter        
  13. training         
  14. attendance at work
  15. special leave
  16. latest documents     
  17. annual leave
  18. maternity       
  19. county hall map      
  20. id badge        
  21. elearning      
  22. induction
  23. salary
  24. termination form
  25. maps

It is important that we know what keywords you are searching for so we can make sure they work when you use them. Keep giving us your feedback so we can make further improvements by filling in our search feedback form.


Your feedback

Thanks for the significant amount of responses we have received so far via our search feedback form. This has helped us to make a number of updates to the SAYT. Here are a few of the changes we've made:

You said -

a search for IT didn't bring up any results.

We've -

reduced the amount of characters you need to type before the search starts making recommendations. This means that if you search for a shorter term, such as IT, you will get a result.

You said -

you couldn't access the jobs site from the intranet search.

We've -

added a direct link - 'Jobs at the council' - to the search so you can see what other potential job opportunities are available to help you progress your career.

You said -

you couldn't find any information about Employee Development Reviews (EDRs). 

We've -

found a page with information for both managers and employees, and made some changes to the search so you can just type either 'EDR' or 'Employee Development Review' and it will appear.

You said -

you'd like direct access to the mapping system.

We've -

made sure that whether you search for 'GIS', 'mapping' or 'maps', the link to the system will appear.

You said -

you couldn't find out how to book a room for a meeting.

We've -

located the instructions for booking meetings at County Hall or another council building and added them to the search. However, we're planning to revisit these later in the project and make some improvements to the information you're given.

What's next for the search

The changes we have made to search so far are relatively small in comparison to what we are planning. Soon we'll release our next reiteration of the search design.

This will include:

  • making our new search available from every page (not just the new pages)
  • adding icons next to the returned page results so you can easily distinguish between new and old pages
  • making the search easier to access by displaying the new and the old search on the same page

Elsewhere on the redesign project

As well as the search improvements we are also currently working on a number of other areas:

Site migration - we're looking at the best way to start migrating the content from the old intranet on to the new content management system. A content management system is how we add and edit content on the intranet. This is going to be a big task so we'll need a plan to tackle this.

Policies - we're working with the data protection team to add their policies to our new staff policies directory.

Point promotion slider - we've created a concept drawing for The Point promotions on the homepage and The Point page. This will enable The Point team to publish more of their offers. Our developers will start to build this shortly. 


Up next

Our next big release is due early March so we're working towards this. Check out our roadmap for more information.

Matt Sizer, senior web analyst 


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