Who said intranet design had to be boring?
11 December 2020 Chris Crammond
As intranets are essentially internally facing collections of resources, quite often their user experience design is overlooked or deprioritised. Just because they are not externally facing marketing / sales focused sites should not mean that a similar user-centred approach to design is taken to ensure they are both aesthetically pleasing as well as functionally sound. After all, generally speaking the resources contained within an intranet should be focused on driving employee productivity and engagement. So, user experience and user interface design should be just as important.
Some key things to consider:
Discovery is key to designing a useful platform
Often intranet design is driven and shaped by the HR department, without necessarily referring to the specific needs of the end users, the employees themselves. Take the time to immerse yourself in their world, listen to their specific pain points and look to structure the user experience and design accordingly. You may find that you prioritise certain content types above and beyond your initial thoughts. One recent example saw us design an intranet for a large Infrastructure provider. Their premises were located on the outskirts of the city, and a large portion of their 5,000 strong work force commuted to work every day. Without interviewing these people, we would never have unearthed their need for a daily traffic report, which they saw as vitally important to planning their commute to work. This highlights how the intranet can practically engage its audience.
Forget technology out of the box
Gone are the days of rolling out a one size fits all intranet, using out of the box software. This approach is outdated and completely insensitive to the specific needs of each organisation. A user centred approach to design is just, if not more, important for an internally facing portal. Take the time to understand your key audience segments and, where possible, build out a solution that is specifically designed for their needs. The efficiencies gained in using an out of the box intranet solution are far outweighed by the improvements in usage and utility you will receive from a customised approach.
Your brand should be reflected in the design
intranets are a great opportunity to be reflective of your personality, brand and key values. A strong reflection of the brand will serve to reinforce these messages and provide employees with a strong sense of connection with the company. This can be achieved by focusing on things like tone of voice, as well as colour schemes and key messaging.
Often intranets can be a dumping ground for countless downloadable objects and links. Like any information-based site, there should be a clear visual hierarchy of elements on the page. Take the time to research your users and organisation requirements for the intranet, and prioritise things using a clear and obvious visual hierarchy. Take the time to understand what is important to users, what are their top tasks, the things they are looking to do on the intranet over and over again.Personalisation is key
Most organisations have multiple departments, groups and layers of staff. Allowing people to tailor and personalise the information that specifically relates to them will serve to make the intranet more useful over time. Whether this is achieved through simple filters for content object, or preferences saved during registration and login, this kind of personalisation will see people returning to the intranet more often and with better focus. The initial research phase of the project is key to understanding the unique persona’s and groups that you are catering to with the platform. Take the time to understand and map out their specific requirements, then build this into your design.
Nothing is ever perfect
All intranet projects start with good intentions, but can tend to become dumping grounds over time. It is important to factor in analytical evaluation over time, so that you can look to continually improve. User Experience design is a journey and a regular focus on incremental change to ensure that the intranet platform is maintained and used well, as opposed to degrading over time.