I continued working on a site map today. Some of it is brilliant (like, really amazing!), and some of it is still uncomfortably messy.
The part that is brilliant matches exactly with the authors and audience with whom I have been speaking most. There are some groups who are more difficult for me to talk with, and the area of the site that they would use and author is the part that is still messy.
Interestingly, the discussions I have had with the first group have not been related to the design process. I have been attending meetings (OK, I am a nut, going to meetings when I don’t need to), chatting on the phone, talking with them in training sessions (I am teaching a mini IA session), and listening deeply.
The things that I am listening for are not Intranet related either – I am listening to the words they use, the way they explain their jobs, the way they work together, the relationships they have, their ideas,, and their underlying needs.
This is perhaps more important than all of the design techniques that I know. If I wasn’t able to listen deeply (and many, many people can’t), I might be able to make a usable site, but it wouldn’t be one that addresses needs that the users don’t even know they have.