Who was the fourteenth U.S. president? What’s the fastest land animal in Europe? What was Shakespeare’s first play? How do you make a Manhattan?
When you don’t know something you Google it. (Sorry, Bing.) Google has a big search box and nothing else. At the time, Google launched that one big search box, it was a radical design choice. Many other search engines had links surrounding a search box to ensure you could find what you needed. Google was confident, knowing people would find what they needed without any additional links.
For the most part, that gamble paid off. Within just a few seconds, you can usually find what you needed. Now Google is the number one search engine.
Test your intranet
Your intranet is full of good information. You have policies, procedures, common tools, projects and more available in your intranet.
Go to your intranet and try to find something using the search box.
Are the right results popping up on page one or in the top 10? Probably not. Here’s a conundrum: You have total control over your intranet, so why can’t anyone find what they need easily?
If you’ve looked at your metrics to determine how many people are using your search every day, you’ll know it’s a useful tool. Google has given us an expectation that when we search, we’ll find what we need quickly and easily. Users expect to find it fast. When they can’t – they typically don’t spend a lot of time digging around. They ask a co-worker and then give up, assuming your intranet doesn’t have the information they need.
If your intranet has great information no one can find – it is useful and meeting its purpose? Probably not.
User experience on intranets can be lousy
Though external websites have made giant leaps in user experience (UX), intranets are still behind. Why? They’re typically more robust than your external website, serving multiple purposes and housing a variety of important company information, department items and team data. Intranets are complex.
But when it comes to intranet UX, you need to simplify.
Common intranet UX issues include:
- You don’t receive meaningful search results.
- You can’t navigate around to find what you need even using the menus and links available.
- Your webpages are a confusing bunch of links, including your home page.
Start with your metrics. You’ll see there are common tasks employees perform and keywords employees use to search.
Also, consider the information that HR, IT and Internal Communications want employees to find easily – such as benefits, security policies, company news and company goals.
Two ways can assist in making search results more meaningful.
- Weight information, like a Google ad to add to the top, for topics people should be able to find. For example, you want people to find benefits information when they need it. Can’t weight information using your search engine? Time to get a new search engine! Search has come a long way, even in intranets. Many tools exist today that enable you to vastly improve search. Talk with your IT department about leveraging existing technology that fits within their tech strategy.
- Review your meta data, headings and content. Generally, search engines rely on the content in a page. You can review the information on that page to determine why it’s not being included. Your IT department can give you more specifics on how your search engine works and help you plan how to improve pages. This process could take a while, so you’ll need patience and dedicated time to make real progress.
Navigation is totally within your control to improve. If you’re not sure where to start, try these ideas:
- Conduct usability testing. It could include easy techniques like card sorting to determine the right structure for your intranet. Card sorting enables users to label sections and group them. You’ll notice patterns occur.
- Consider your intranet from the users’ point of view. If you don’t know the way your company is structured, would you be able to find anything? Departments like Payroll, for example, could fall under Finance or HR depending on the company. By burying paycheck and salary information in a department, employees will never find that information.
- Use an intranet that has an established template that has already been tested. There are many options available, including some that can be customized to meet your organization’s unique needs.
Improve your intranet webpages
If your intranet pages are a series of links, it’s not very useful. You also have total control in improving webpages. Don’t know where to begin? Use your metrics and view your most popular pages and start there.
Revise pages so employees can scan them and get the information they need quickly. Improve pages using the following techniques:
- Group information together and use headings.
- Use tables, bold and bullets to help people get to information that’s most valuable.
- Use active voice.
- Keep it simple. Short sentences that are to the point are easier to read than rambling sentences that cover a range of topics.
- Conduct usability testing, verifying users understand key information on a page.
- Hire consultants or content developers to assist you.
Don’t forget to communicate changes
As you improve your intranet, let your employees know what’s improved and how it’s improved. If they’ve used your intranet and given up, they need reasons to trust it again. Encourage employees to comment on pages so they can let you know how to further improve or give recognition it has improved.
By uncovering the gems that exist in your intranet, you’ll make it useful again. Better still, you’ll increase productivity and engagement among employees.