Top 10 Intranet Design Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Created: Feb 13, 2014

Updated: June 19, 2024

Everyone in your company has expectations of your intranet. You’ll have to satisfy all of them, ensure that the content is rich and varied, and make sure that users adhere to governance guidelines. It’s a tall order, for sure. Here’s how you can make your life simpler. Just avoid the biggest mistakes right at the beginning. You’ll find the rest easier.

1. Not Setting A Budget In Advance

Even though your intranet is for internal use, it will need to be updated now and then. Estimate an annual budget and generate projected budget requirements for the next five years. Be sure your management understands and approves of your budget and will stand by it. Without this, there’s no point in dreaming of a corporate intranet.

2. Not Taking Staff Input

Your users are your employees – they are the ones who should be satisfied with the intranet. There’s no point in designing an intranet based on management opinion. Again, when it comes to testing, don’t be satisfied with the testing your coders will do. Put the intranet out for user testing, and get input from each team for maximum effectiveness.

3. Not Making Room For Expansion

Evaluate your company’s existing size and growth prospects for the next five years. Then map your intranet needs to the intranet needs and usage of bigger companies. This will give you some idea of the kind of expansion your intranet will need over time. You might need additional servers, more login portals, a better CMS and so on.

4. Not Setting Up Best Practices

Users should know how to optimize keywords into content, what words to avoid, what kind of content is appropriate and so on. Titles and tags should be consistent in order to enable effective searches. This, and many other best practices should be set up ahead of time.

5. Getting Swayed By Opinions

Management will have many opinions; team leads and managers will have their share as well. If you are swayed by people’s opinions, your intranet will turn out half-finished and unusable. Rather, gather detailed user input and study other intranets. Stick to your guns and get approval for the right design parameters.

6. Not Setting Up Ownership In Advance

Now this mistake can literally open up a Pandora’s Box of issues. Designing a great intranet on its own is nothing, if there’s no ownership and no governance policies in place. Determine who’ll be in charge of the intranet. Assign a team to upload content and mentor user-uploaded content. Set strict policies along with penalties to users who don’t adhere to those policies.

7. Going Only Half Way

So, management feels that for now, it’s good enough to design half the intranet and the other half can be taken up for later. Management plans to do the other half if there’s sufficient interest from the user pool. Well, guess what, half an intranet is not better than none. In fact, no intranet is better than half, because there’s no way your users are going to be enthusiastic over it. You lose before you start.

8. Treating The Intranet Like A Book

You cannot upload huge chunks of content, especially paper scans, and expect people to absorb and use the info. Web readers consume content differently. They scan the important points and tend to ignore chunks. So be sure to break up content into chewable bits. Also, try uploading podcasts, infographics, videos and slides instead of page content.

9. Slapping It All Together In A Hurry

You know how management works – they’ll sit on their backs for a long time to approve of the intranet’s budget, scope and design. And once that’s done, they want the intranet coded and delivered in a week’s time. This is pure suicide. You need time to gather user input, do thorough user testing, and handle the migration and the training and much more. Allow yourself sufficient time to do all this.

10. Going Overboard With The Technology

Don’t assume that if you cram your intranet chock-full of features, it’s going to become an overnight success. Doesn’t work that way. The more complex your intranet becomes, the more unusable it becomes. This is because very few people are comfortable with complex features. Make the intranet technologically-rich but simple to use, so that everyone from your techie to the HR assistant can use it.

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