A Fresh Look at IntelliConnect

Wolters Kluwer's (WK) product IntelliConnect is one in which they are really wanting to have a second chance to give you a good first impression. When the product was initially launched in the Fall of 2009, many law librarians and legal researchers gave it negative reviews and found a number of problems with the interface. Because of the initial launch didn't go the way WK had hoped, they asked a few law library bloggers to come up to New York to view the interface, look at some of the advances that have been made since the launch, and to give feedback, suggestions, criticisms, etc. to a group of WK trainers, marketers, developers and executives. To my FTC friends out there, WK flew me to NYC, put me up in a hotel room (see the bathtub in the window blog), bought me lunch (and some breakfast bagels), and I got a per diem for taxi ride (which, by the way fell about $20 short of the actual cost!!) So, with that bit of legality out of the way, let me tell you about my experience with WK's IntelliConnect.

Best Thing About IntelliConnect - The People Behind It
Before I launch into the product itself, let me tell you about what impressed me the most about my visit wasn't the product, but rather the people behind the product. All of them were very excited to have us up there, proud of the product itself, but willing to have an actual conversation about it, and accept the critical views we gave them without becoming defensive or deflecting the problem back at us. It is not easy sitting in a room where people are pointing to your past errors, current problems, and where we think they need to put their future efforts. But, take it they did, and in return they pointed out things they had fixed; things they are working on, and; reasons why IntelliConnect was designed the way it was. It was a great roundtable type discussion where everyone walked away a feeling like we were all moving in the right direction.

Other Reviews to Look At
My fellow law librarian blogger, Jason Eiseman, gives a pretty good description and review of IntelliConnect over at his The Content Librarian blog, and WK actually has an informative and kind of entertaining overview video of the product. I agree with a lot of the points that Jason makes, and rather than rehash what he's already covered, let me point out a few additional observations. You may want to read Jason's Eiseman's post before continuing... go ahead, I'll still be here when you get back.

Built for the Needs of the Power-User
The consistant phrase I kept hearing throughout the day was "this is what our `POWER-USERS` asked us to do." So, for all of you that complained when WestlawNext launched its product and you said that they were "dumbing down" or "Googlizing" legal research, then you'll love the fact that IntelliConnect falls on the other end of that spectrum by creating a product that is designed for "experienced" or "power-users". I, on the other hand, feel that developing your product based on what the power-users demand may not be the best approach. I'd rather have something that is initially designed for simple searching and navigation, with the option to go to an advanced version if I so choose. But for those of you that like having powerful search and navigation features built into your research tools, then you'll like the lay out of IntelliConnect.

Problems with Frames
To me, however, the look brought back memories of CD-ROM products, especially with the use of webpage frames where the search bar, navigation, and results page are in their individual frames. Frames have too many problems associated with them, and although the power-users that WK worked with on setting up the design said they like the frames, it may also be one of the primary reasons for some of the biggest complaints from some of these same users. When you have frames, the webpage URL's aren't dynamic, and can be a headache when the user hits refresh and gets sent back to the start page. My dislike of frames was not universally held by the bloggers, however. Jason Eiseman thought that the frames were fine and had no problem with how it looked.

Some "Problems" Fixed
Before I went up to NYC, I asked some of my law librarian cohorts to give me a list of questions, or problems they were having with IntelliConnect and I would relay those while I was there to see if I could get an answer. As I started going through the list with the WK people, I noticed that some of these problems were corrected but there seemed to be a disconnect between WK and the users. WK needs to have a simple place to go to that details any known problems, and when it was fixed, or an ETA on when the fix is going to be rolled out. The other problem is that some users got a bad first impression of the product, and just assume that the problems still exists. For this, the user needs to do two things... 1) try it again, see if it works now, and 2) contact your WK rep and let them know this is important to you. Although they probably won't be able to fix it on the spot, they did tell me that they take user input very seriously, and would make sure that those making changes, corrections or updates to IntelliConnect would get that message and would see what they could do to fix it.

The Future For WK/CCH/ASPEN/LOISLAW is IntelliConnect
IntelliConnect is here to stay. Wolters Kluwer is moving away from its concept of simply being a holding company and letting its subsidiaries operating in their own little silos. The impression I got leaving the meeting at WK was that IntelliConnect is the platform they are banking on to consolidate all of their products. This will be a long, long process, and one filled with a lot of obstacles trying to get unrelated databases to work together. I'm excited about the fact that it looks like they are eventually going to integrate LoisLaw's information into IntelliConnect and finally leverage all that primary law information against the wealth of information from all their other products. I was told that LoisLaw will continue as a stand alone product in order to compete with some of the low-cost research tools out there. So, my "total guess" is that if they integrate the primary law data, it will go in under a new brand. The LoisLaw integration will also reduce the large amount of duplication that WK companies are doing, and should streamline the overall process.

IntelliConnect Needs a Second Chance to Make a First Impression
I again point back to my previous statement that I believe that those in charge of IntelliConnect want it to be a great product. It has a way to go, but you get a feeling that they are willing to listen and adjust to what their users want. One of the best comments I got from a fellow librarian about WK and IntelliConnect was this:
CCH's [WK's] content and reputation are their greatest assets. They should create a database that capitalizes on those while making it more intuitive and simpler to search and organize results.
I think that WK is trying to do this. So, I suggest that if you're using IntelliConnect that you start relaying what you want IntelliConnect to become. Wolters Kluwer says they are willing to listen, so now's the time to start the conversation.

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