Increasing user adoption and retention with SharePoint


Many web sites and corporate intranets suffer from content being out-of-date or stale and when this occurs, user adoption is low and user retention usually drops off.  In addition to content being fresh and relevant, it needs to be presented nicely to give a good impression and wow the user in coming back.

There are some key initiatives you can consider in trying to drive user adoption and increase user retention, and this article covers two main strategies:

  • Keeping content current and relevant
  • Making content attractive to use

Keeping content current

Keeping content current and relevant in SharePoint will help drive user adoption and retain users for longer.   This is an obvious statement but unless you implement strategies to keep content current, it’s difficult to achieve through day-to-day updates. Many of our clients use external feed content from news and social media providers as a strategy for keeping content current. This is a sound strategy as most of the external content is updated frequently (with a certain amount of reliability) and at little to no cost.

The concept of using external content providers is analogous to how newspapers are created.  Of course Newspaper providers have their own journalist that generate content, but a large portion of any newspapers consists of bought syndicated content from other news providers.  In fact, there’s more news content than they can fit into the newspaper (usually) and the articles that make it to print are ones targeted to the local audience (based on relevance and demographic). Consuming feeds within you site is no different, except, for the most part, feed content is free.  If you adopt a strategy of keeping content fresh and relevant, you will retain and have better adoption of SharePoint (assuming relevance to the target audience is high).  The other thing to note about feeds, is that they are usually just a snapshot view (an excerpt, sometimes with images).   To receive the full content, you will be required to click-through to the provider.

Content is free, make sure it’s relevant

The great thing about using feed content to keep your web site or intranet fresh, current and relevant, is that most feed content from news sites, social media sources and search engines is FREE!   You can’t get any cheaper than free and the approach to using free content as a strategy for maintaining a high level of user adoption is a sound one, as long as the content is relevant.  As well as being free, there’s an abundance of feed content that you possibly could consume, the content is global and made readily available from some of the most trusted sources in the world.  BBC world news, CNN world news, Yahoo weather, etc.
Relevance goes hand-in-glove with frequency of updates when it comes to maintaining a high level of user adoption.  If content is not relevant, why consume it?  It’s like eating food, you wouldn’t eat something you didn’t like.  If is relevant and attractive to consume, you’ll consume it without leaving an awful taste in your mouth.

Also, we eat with our eyes way before we take a bite; consuming content is no different when it comes to satisfying our appetite for knowledge and information.  So the key is to make it look attractive to consume, this might mean that the feeds contain images or that the site has a responsive design to allow feed content to be displayed on smaller form-factor devices.

Not free, but very relevant.

Some of our customers buy feed content that is very specific to their industry sector.  An example of this is the finance and banking sector.   There are specific content feed providers that deliver content that is very relevant and attractive to the finance and banking sector.    As an example, these providers publish security bulletins relating to the finance and banking sector.  The same can be said for other industries, like Health Care, Aged Care, Automotive, Oil and Gas, Mining; the list goes one.

The look-n-feel is very important

Ensuring adoption is high within SharePoint is more than making sure content is fresh, current and relevant.  The content needs to look good and often not enough importance is placed on how it should look in SharePoint.  Whenever we’ve re-branded an intranet, we’ve found very positive feedback within the customer.  This involves nothing more than re-skinning SharePoint to look a little bit cleaner, shinier and more in line with the customer’s branding guidelines.

The branding of the intranet is always extremely subjective and follows the fashion of the day.  We’re in a period where straight lines, pointed corners (non-rounded) are in and shadows a definitely out.  In the Microsoft world, this look is not allowed to be called “Metro”.   Transparency (with varying degrees) seems to rule many good UI designs at the moment and simple colour and often single colours with varying shades are being selected.

A great example of a really cool SharePoint site is

This site is not only attractive to the eye but responsive in design, meaning it will automatically cater for different devices without the need for re-directing links.

So look-n-feel is as important as content freshness and relevancy; take time to ensure the look is in line with you branding guidelines and current fashions as this will naturally retain and attract users to your web site or intranet.

What I’ve learnt recently

In attending several conference as an exhibitor (for Qualitem), the question I get asked the most is “what do you guys do?”  It’s a great question because Qualitem has a lot of great products for the SharePoint platform.  The product that has the focus at the moment, is Feed Manager.

Most people don’t know what Feed Manager is by the title and although we’ve tried to make it simple, folks get us confused with Twitter or Yammer. We’re neither of these things and no we don’t compete with Sitrion either.  Our product is very different, in fact, we use the data available via all feed content systems (whether it be syndicated News feeds or Social Media site feeds).   Qualitem Feed Manager will cache these into SharePoint for you and updates the content based on an update frequency setting per feed.