When it comes to intranet design, many intranet companies think one size fits all. They provide a standard template, some colors options, and you go. But at ElevatePoint, we think intranets are as unique as your organization. That’s why we offer different intranet designs for home pages and internal pages (departments, locations, etc.) and more than 250 drag-and-drop content elements. We assist with information architecture and content. In fact, when you get an intranet demo from us, we show you a version of your brand with what’s possible.
Based on our experience and expertise, there are some basics to good design.
“Design is where science and art break even.” – Mieke Gerritzen, digital designer from The Netherlands and founder of the Image Society
Gerritzen’s quote is especially true of intranets. They can be beautiful, but should also be functional, clean, and elegantly simple.
Look around your desk. Everything there was designed. Sure, some things can be improved (we’re looking at you mouse!), but each one is there to be functional — to make you’re more productive. Your stapler, scissors, coffee cup, etc. all should get a job done, quickly without you thinking about it.
So should your intranet.
Read these three things that should improve your intranet design.
1. Your intranet is user-friendly and completes your strategy
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many intranets are not designed. They’re unusable with cluttered links, useless search, and outdated or unnecessary information.
Good, user-friendly intranet that complete your strategy have these common elements:
- It serves its purpose
- It’s easy to find information
- It has plenty of white space
- Content (images and text) is needed, updated, chunked, and can be skimmed
- Meet unsaid user expectations
Serves its purpose
It’s important to think about the job of the intranet. Your intranet’s job relates directly to your organizational goals and strategy, too.
Most intranets should boost productivity, increase communication and collaboration, and engage employees. But often times there are other special needs an intranet must complete. Having an intranet strategy ensures your intranet will be well designed and serve its purpose.
Easy to find information
Easy to find relies on two things: information architecture (what you call navigation and pages) as well as search.
So … how do you get good information architecture? Ask. Conduct focus groups and test designs to determine what people call information and where it should be located. Use card sorting techniques and provide tests to willing employees, getting ideas on how to improve navigation.
What about search? These days, it’s much easier to pin results, use internal ads, and more. But you also need a modern intranet that doesn’t require complex SEO work. That way, you’ll always be able to get good search results long after you’ve launched. ElevatePoint even created additional search criteria for one law firm that needed version history in a court room. (Read the case study.)
Has plenty of white space
Intranet design relies on places for the eye to rest. And it’s a mistake we often see — customers who want an “interesting” page, but without white space. Without that room for the eye to rest, information can look cluttered and even be difficult to understand. People often use clean and simple to embrace white space.
Content is needed, updated, chunked, and readable
Hand in hand with white space is content. However, content is more than text. It’s images, PDFs, video, podcasts, and anything that provides information.
Every page should have a purpose. And the content in that page (images and text — from PDFs to video) should serve that main purpose. If it doesn’t serve that purpose, ask yourself — is it needed? Probably not. Along with serving a main purpose, there probably is a clear call to action such as — who to contact, how to engage, or download needed information.
It should also be updated regularly with governance processes and owners (or content authors) assigned to each page. Your information manager may be able to assist with how often pages are updated. For example, accounting pages may need to be updated more regularly than your marketing info. That means, it should also meet your copy standards — your style guide, spelling accuracy, grammar, etc. Get governance assistance.
Information should be grouped or chunked. For example, if there a lot of content on the page try to find what they have in common. By grouping content, you can place them in boxes or in accordions. This helps make it easy to skim, too. Bullets, tables, and using bold can all ensure it’s easy to read.
Meets unsaid expectations
Sometimes people forget about “unsaid expectations” — those standards that are widely adopted on the internet. Because your users use websites daily, they notice various standards that emerge: navigation is at the top, search is at the top right, the company logo is in the top left, buttons are for main calls to action, there’s contact information for help, etc.
As you’re developing your design, think about what’s already standardized. Your external web team, if you need assistance, should be able to help.
2. Scales and flexes
Not only should your design be responsive, but it should be easily adapted to grow your organization.
Responsive. Intranets should be accessed from multiple devices – desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. Not all smartphone screens are the same size. Laptop screen sizes vary, as do desktop screen sizes. What you need is an intranet that scales no matter how big, or small, the screen is. Consider what the media you have on your intranet. For example, many devices now don’t support Flash. PDFs may be an issue.
In addition, ensure pages are fast-loading, not image-heavy. Employees will access your intranet while on vacation, at their kids’ soccer game, in company meetings, and as they’re helping customers to check something. You can test for these and even purchase software to assist you. Again, your IT and web teams can provide additional guidance about what can be used internally.
Growing with your organization, changing products, adapting to reorgs, handling mergers and acquisitions, this should all be easier because of your design.
3. Reflects your brand and culture, including your employee
Your brand and culture can — and should — come alive online. It’s more than just colors and typography. Your content itself and tone should reflect your brand. For example, If you’re a hip, innovative brand, your tone on the website should be filled with contractions and fun. If you’re a healthcare company, it should sound caring and healing.
The experience of using your intranet should be like visiting one of the offices or locations. If your office is inviting and warm, your intranet should be, too.
These days, intranets can also be personalized to reflect what’s meaningful to individual people. Even if you’re in marketing, one team member may have a need to visit Pantone colors while another needs to check the latest AP style.
No matter what: measure
Philosophy majors, architects, and artists probably know the well-known debate about art versus design. Some argue art doesn’t solve problems while others think it does (or should). Regardless, your intranet needs to be measured. Instead of thinking just in terms of standard data (such as page views and bounce rates), measure in terms of the elements contained in this blog post. Is it doing its job? Easy to use? Clear? Simple to read and understand? Updated as per your schedule?
Conduct focus groups and testing people on tasks, you’ll ensure your intranet is user friendly. Get ideas and additional resources.
Measuring these goals tell a better story of whether your intranet is accomplishing the return on investment (ROI). They also provide data on whether your team and department are accomplishing their goals, too.