Reading the Landscape

The sign was clear.  It proudly announced that yet another bank I’d never heard of before was about to open a new branch on a busy corner in Manhattan.  With the opening of that branch, there will be three different banks at that single intersection.

If you walk down the street, you’ll soon discover that this corner is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception. In fact, an extraterrestrial landing in New York City in 2010 could be forgiven for thinking that the residents of this city are totally obsessed with money, health and…coffee.  In fairness, just a few minutes spent reading the local landscape could quickly lead anyone to that conclusion since it appears that most of our storefronts are either banks, drugstores or coffee shops. However, do those storefronts provide a fair reading of the landscape? Or do their large eye-catching signs draw your attention away from the other businesses on the street?

Now, take a look at the landscape of your intranet, portal, public-facing website or other knowledge management system.  Are the signs there clear?  Do they communicate unambiguously what your KM program or legal practice are about? Are the important content items easy to find? Is the critical functionality easy to use? Would an extraterrestrial looking at these resources understand what it is you are trying to do? Or would you be misunderstood just like the streetscape of Manhattan?

Reading the landscape is something we do every day.  It helps us navigate efficiently through life.  Have you created a landscape that provides clear, easy to use signs?  If you think you have, congratulations.  Nonetheless, you would be wise to check with your internal and external clients.  After all, they are the ones for whom you created the landscape.

[Photo Credit: Andrew Mace]

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