5 of the Best Intranet Navigation and Search Ideas

search and navigation ideas for an intranet
Often times intranets fail because information is hard (or impossible!) to find. ElevatePoint can help.

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At ElevatePoint, we often hear a common complaint — employees can’t find anything on their intranet. Search doesn’t yield meaningful results. Information isn’t well-organized, including navigation.

It’s rendering intranets useless.  

Ragan indicates communications professionals are often complaining about navigation and search. Seems like there’s a reason to complain!

McKinnsey says that — in fact — 19% of an average workers time is spent searching for and gathering information. They even indicate improving how people search and gather information can improve productivity by 30 – 35%.

It’s not just McKinnsey. Jakob Nielsen, a user experience (UX) expert indicates that larger organizations can save half a billion dollars by improving their intranet’s UX and search.

Use these best practices for intranet navigation and search.

1. Use tasks or topics, not org charts

computer with an intranetOften times when people can’t find information on your intranet, it’s because it hasn’t been updated in years and the navigation structure follows your organizational chart. For example, if you want ideas on how to improve business processes, you’d have to know it’s in IT.

Why is using an org chat an issue? Three reasons:

  • New employees don’t know the organization well enough to determine where information is located.
  • Seasoned employees may not know which department owns a task or role.
  • Re-orgs.  They shuffle the deck and put tasks under a different team.

Use tasks or topics instead. Tasks and topics can help determine commonly perceived places where information should be located. Mission, vision, strategy, culture, values, and history — for example — may be best under “Our company.”

One easy way to understand how your users want information categories is by talking with users.

2. Ask users for input

intranetsThere are a variety of techniques to help determine where information should go that involve talking with users — your employees.

A few popular techniques include:

  • Card sorting, where users group information and sometimes label it.
  • Testing, where you review tasks with employees — such as “Find how to enroll in benefits” and determine whether users can do it. Get ideas using this usability infographic.
  • Mockups. Even after card sorting and testing, you’ll want to generate — either online or offline — a version of navigation and test or retest.

3. Test and review metrics

After talking with users and mocking up examples, see if the problems really are solved. Some metrics to focus on include the following:

    • Use paths. Google Analytics and other metrics have robust ways to determine the click paths of employees. Are employees taking the paths you envisioned?
    • Review bounce rate. The higher the bounce rate, the more it seems employees didn’t expect what they got.
    • Embed comments. Intranets can include social media these days, even embedded on the page. That way, all you need to do is ask. Let them comment on whether it was easy to find and offer ideas on what may help.
    • Conduct more tests. Some problems require multiple tests. Don’t get discouraged if you have to try a few times.
    • Review top searches to identify what people are looking for.

4. Improve search

There are many ways to improve the overall search results that go beyond your IT team trying to trick your intranet.

  • Use good meta data. Some intranets — such as SharePoint — have more robust meta data options to make search inherently better. It enables you to enter keywords for images, PDFs, etc.
  • Use context. Contextual search enables searches within a section. For example, imagine being at an insurance company trying to get to your own short-term disability options, instead of those for their customers.
  • Pin results. Also, some intranets — such as SharePoint intranets, again — also enable content owners to pin results for often queried pages. See path results and search results for possible pages to pin.
  • Use refiners. Some organizations have such complicated data, that they need to get more advanced searches. For example, ElevatePoint worked with one organization that needed search based on type of document, updated date, version, author, and subject. 

5. Use chatbots

content audit, creation, and migrationNew on the scene for few intranets are chatbots. Imagine a friendly online helper who directs you toward information you need quickly and easily. It starts with a simple comment or question.

You type, “I have a toothache.”

A friendly chatbot replies with information and links. It writes, “I’m sorry. Here are a few options — dentists on your plan and information about what’s covered.” It could even ask you to rate that information, to train it to provide better responses.

That’s the power of AI-driven chatbots and why more organizations are using them.  

Search and navigation doesn’t have to be super advanced. It shouldn’t use jargon. And it doesn’t need eye-tracking software to tell you the best options. Some of the best usability tests are offline and low-tech. These days, there are lots of options, too, to improve navigation and search. Chatbots, advanced search options, etc. make it easy to get the information you need quickly and easily.

And that’s the whole point of your intranet.

You want people to find information quickly, simply. That’s what ElevatePoint does. We use best practices to provide great navigation, mockups for your users, advanced search, and chatbots.

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