Better intranet tagging and organisation

John Newton's picture
John Newton
Sereno blog

We've built a number of intranets/extranets and over time new ways of working for site users help change the way information on these systems is structured. A good example of this is the humble tag. Despite the fact that tagging has been around a very long time and is second nature to bloggers, in point of fact not everyone is confident about tagging or understands how it can help organise information. On intranets, tagging can transform information architecture so long as you approach how tags are used in a sane and structured way.

In the past, we found organisations often resistent to enabling users to create their own tags. Taxonomies - collections of tags - were seen as precious commodities that needed to be wholly curated by a few chosen people. However, when tagging is liberalised, you notice how tags naturally get picked up across the site's audience. And while some user generated tags gain little or no acceptance, many tags are picked up much more widely as staff use terms for their tags that make sense to them and that are commonly used by colleagues.

There's a lot of help given by Drupal in this respect as auto-complete will assist users in picking up on pre-existing tags - this inhibits the proliferation of variants. Additionally, other modules in Drupal mean you can easily control which taxonomies are editable and which are not. It's absolutely right to protect certain key vocabularies and have these only editable by certain staff. However, a secondary informal tag system can also be used and, again leveraging the contrib modules Drupal has to offer such as faceted search, it's straightforward to create advanced search/filtering tools which utilise all the site's taxonomies both curated and open.

I think new intranet builds are reflecting the change in site audience behaviour although many older systems built on more cumbersome technologies do seem to be struggling to embrace this trend. With many users now comfortably tagging extensively on all the major social media platforms, all intranets need to move forward to embrace current user behaviours and technologies. There is a really sound business case behind this for all intranets that seek to leverage the collective intelligence of the people within their organisations.