Eva-Lotta Lamm is a graphic and web designer, interested in beautiful, usable and accessible design using web standards

Work

The Hub Admin Interface

– User Interface for an Intranet CMS

  • Date:

    September 2005

  • Client:

    Schlumberger

  • Agency / Team:

    Kahn + Associates

  • My tasks:

    Information Architecture, Wireframes, Interface Design, XHTML/CSS Templates

  • Filed under:

    Web & Interface

Project image

The Client

Schlumberger is the world’s leading oilfield services provider for oil and gas companies around the world with 70.000 employees operating in 80 countries.
The global intranet of Schlumberger (“The Hub”) is used by tens of thousands of users every day and contributed to by several thousand authors from around the globe.
The Hub is run by a custom built CMS that was developed in the mid-nineties and contains several hundred thousand objects today.

The problem

Schlumberger approached K+A with the task to redesign the user interface of their intranet as they had realised that the existing interface was difficult to use and that the support team spent a significant amount of time answering questions about how to use certain features.
Because of the large amount of content in the system, it was not possible to change the underlying technology and therefore core logic of the CMS.

Our approach

We started by a thorough analysis of the existing system: Creating an inventory of existing functionalities and an overview diagram of the application helped us understand the system and served as basis for working with the client and the development team. A series of interviews with users of the hub and staff of the support team helped identify the most important functionalities and those that were not used at all in the current system.

Based on the knowledge we gained in the analysis phase we started to conceive a new interface that supported several new features while simplifying existing capabilities.

The main difficulty users seemed to have with the existing interface was the lack of understanding how the final pages of the intranet were assembled and how they could manipulate the different parts of a page. Information in the Hub is stored in “objects”. Each intranet page is assembled from many different objects: while displaying the content of the currently viewed object in the main content column, the lists of news, related links or the local navigation are assembled from other objects.

The solution

The existing interface made it difficult to understand the relationship between an object and the content of the final assembled page. Therefore, we developed an “object overview” as the centre-piece of the admin system. It allows the author to see all parts of a page and gives him access to the corresponding editing screens for each part.
We regrouped existing functionalities based upon the zoning in the object overview and created the visual design for all necessary editing screens. A series of new functionalities based on the user’s role and actions were added, such as a quick access to recently modified objects, an overview over the objects the user has editing rights on and his files and folders in the file system.
In addition to the full admin interface, we developed a simplified version for less experienced users. This version only contains a small series of edit screens that provides the most important functionalities for updating existing content and creating simple new pages.

K+A delivered a complete user interface with over eighty screens, coded in XHTML/CSS with some javascript to support all editing and administration operations.

The result

The users’ reactions to the new system were very positive and the time needed by the support team to train new users decreased significantly.

Since the initial redesign of the interface in 2005, K+A has constantly been working on different parts of the Hub, improving parts of the interface (such as the file upload process) and adding new functionalities (such as a basic statistics tool and a workflow for user suggestions on pages).