12 Intranet Design Best Practices

Feb 13, 2014

Today’s intranets are so much better designed than intranets a decade or so ago. We’re sure everyone will agree on this. So how is it that these intranets are still not better when it comes to usability? After all, the ultimate goal of intranets is to be eminently usable to its audience. Here are 12 great intranet design best practices that’ll make sure your intranets look good and work even better.

1. Learn From Successes And Mistakes

Evaluate your previous mistakes and successes. Also study other people’s successes. Doing so will give excellent insight as to what to avoid and what to try again. Attend seminars on how to design a successful intranet. If you are in need of more help, hire a consultant or two.

2. Get User Feedback

Code your new features based on feedback. Incorporate new features only if sufficient people seem to think they’re essential. When your site is up, get people to use it and give you feedback on its usability. Remember, those employees are your clients – you want to make sure they’re happy with the intranet; after all they’re the ones who’ll be using it!

3. Identify Priority Elements

"What elements do the majority of your users use? Which elements actually hinder employee productivity? With this insight, you can make desired elements quickly accessible, and hide or de-prioritize (on the user interface) lesser-used elements. This will bring down the clutter and increase productivity.
4. Build A Solid Plan

Don’t try to plug everything in at once; you’re not trying to make some kind of a jambalaya here. Create a solid, phased-out approach with measurable objectives at the end of each phase. Be aware of your overall scope. A good, solid, multi-stage plan will ensure that you don’t go over the top overnight.

5. Make Content Scannable

Your intranet content should be easy for any web reader to quickly scan and move on.

• Break long articles into bite-sized chunks.
• Convert written updates to podcasts.
• Use bullets and numbering to break down text density.
• Cut down sentence length and don’t use big words.

6. Train Your Users

Code the intranet so it’s intuitive for people to use. Also, make sure that everyone knows where to go to access the information they need. Teach people to use the CMS software you use, and also let them know how they can reach out for support.

7. Market Your Intranet

First, let people know. Second, market the intranet’s usefulness and content through promotional internal emails. Don’t stop your promotional efforts after some time – keep highlighting new features in the office newsletter, or pin updates on employee’s login pages.

8. Create An Intranet Monitoring Team

Determine who ‘owns’ the intranet, who administers it and who manages the content and graphics. You don’t need a very big team, but you do need a cohesive team with clearly-defined roles for each person. Be sure to get your senior management’s support and approval to get this team in place.

9. Train The Intranet Team

Make sure that your intranet team is thoroughly trained on how to use your CMS, author content, create infographics, podcasts and Vlogs. Also train them to train others so that if they’re taken away from the intranet team, they can always train someone else to take their place.

10. Don’t Rely On Packaged Software

You don’t have to necessarily code everything yourself. Get your hands on a good default interface and build your own interface features on top of it. You know what your people want – and if you don’t know yet, just find out what they want and use that knowledge to build the right user interface.

11. Keep It Simple

Sometimes people look at their intranets and feel that they need to jazz things up. If this ‘jazzing’ follows a firm, objective-based plan, it’s fine, but otherwise, leave it alone. The reason for this is that the simpler your intranet is, the better it is. Go over your site and clean up clutter, non-working links, heavy graphics, too many colors and anything that takes away from the simplicity of looks and use.

12. Keep Updates Ongoing

The advantage of having an intranet owner and administrator in place is that you can keep updating your intranet. A proper governance model will ensure that frequent updates are made to the intranet’s content and usefulness across the organization.

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