At ElevatePoint, we develop intranet content strategies, migrate and organize information, write, and edit. Not to brag, but we’ve developed these strategies and created content for a variety of organizations across the globe. Sometimes we’re asked to put together standards to assist organizations, either supplementing what they have or creating new standards.
Based on those guidelines, we’ve developed a few ideas to make either migrating or creating new content easier if you’re going through an intranet revamp or just want to refresh your content.
1. Use a style guide for consistency
In addition, create a guide for those words you use frequently, or where words vary from your selected writing guide. Some ideas to document:
- Accepted versions of your organization’s name to use internally and externally to protect your brand
- Phone numbers. Decide if you will use dashes or dots in between, for example: 888-123-4567 or 888.123.4567
- Dates and times, for example: Thursday, June 5 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time (PT)
- Special words used by your industry or organization, such as: healthcare (one word), long term disability (without hyphens), software-as-a-service (with hyphens), etc.
- Acronyms and their meanings
Many organizations also decide on a common dictionary to use for words that can be spelled more than one way. Again, it’s about consistency and making following the rules easier.
2 .Be concise
Give just the facts. Be brief. Edit out unnecessary words. Brevity is your friend.
3. Be clear
Avoid jargon and clichés, especially if they’re unnecessary. Of course, your brand may be more fun or more formal. Adhere to those brand voice and tone guidelines while sounding “human.” The more human you sound, the easier it is to understand you.
Spell out unclear acronyms on the first usage to ensure clarity. In general, consider your audience, including new employees – will they understand the information provided?
4. Use active voice
What’s active voice? It’s where the sentence subject performs an action. Passive voice is where the action takes the primary role.
- Active: She parked the car near the stop sign.
- Passive: The car was parked by her near the stop sign.
Why use active voice? Active voice is easier to read and easier to understand. Yes, some organizations – have to use the passive voice sometimes. It’s important to understand why you’re using either one. For example, if it’s life-saving information – like dosages or emergency procedures – chances are good you’ll want to use active voice.
If it’s difficult to distinguish between active and passive voice, use Word and applications such as Grammarly, to help.
5. Group or chunk information
Group like information together under headlines that make sense and people can read at-a-glance. That way, employees can easily determine whether they need information in that section.
Why? People skim online, scanning a page to look for what they need and then move on. And that’s what you want them to do.
6. Use bullets and numbered lists
It’s easier to read information that uses these lists. Displaying the information this way is a great way to highlight important information such as features, steps, key words, phrases or tips. Ensure all of your points in the list are related to each other.
- Use bullets for items that don’t need to happen in a specific order. Use numerals when there’s a specific process with steps.
- Both types of lists make it easier for readers to skim for information.
7. Bold what’s important
When possible, avoid all capitalization (ALL CAPS). Instead, use bold to emphasize information. If the sentence is already bolded, use italics to emphasize the word or words. Bold is easier to read and captures the eye faster than italics or using just capital letters.
8. Use images, audio, and video
Use more than just words in your content. Video, images, audio (with icons associated) all visually break up the information, providing white space and places for the eye to rest. These additional pieces of content also provide more context, giving more information. They even appeal to different types of learners — visual, audio, and kinesthetic; by changing the way you offer the same information, you’re guaranteed to engage everyone.
The more complex the information, the more types of media you may need to explain something.
9. Aim for an 8th-grade reading level
Because people skim online, you want to make it clear and easy to read. It’s making information easier to decipher so your audience can move on quickly and be productive.
Occasionally, people complain this method is dumbing down content for online usage, but that’s not really what it’s doing. Your content may be on an intranet for an esteemed university, but should still be easy to skim and understand. Even the brightest college professors don’t want to struggle on an intranet trying to find information about parking; they’d rather be talking with students or reading content that relates to their field of study. Plus, if they find the information they need quickly, they’ll be more likely to go to the intranet again.
10. Be accurate and have a governance plan
Your intranet should be correct. Otherwise, why would anyone use your intranet? Being accurate includes:
- Keeping information updated.
- Assigning a resource to every page and adding to their job responsibility to update and regularly review for accuracy.
- Use your internal communications team to audit your intranet for accuracy. If you’re in a field where you have critical information online, like medical dosages, consider auditing often.
- Give employees a person to contact if the information on a page is incorrect.
- Have service level agreements on how long it’ll take to update information.
- Meet with those who updated pages to ensure they understand expectations.
Sometimes big changes cause disruption across your intranet – from new goals to organizational changes. Set expectations with employees, so they understand how to use the intranet and when it’ll be updated. Trust is everything and is the difference between your employees using your intranet or not using your intranet.
Don’t stop there. Communicate to employees about new pages and big changes. Not only will this help employees understand what’s updated, but it’ll let them know web authors are making changes regularly. That builds trust in your intranet. (Behind the scenes you know you’re changing content daily, but your employees don’t know this.)
By continuing to communicate about these governance plans and what to expect, you’ll continue to increase adoption rates and make your intranet a trusted place to go for information.
Putting it all together
Intranets are incredibly useful if the content on them is consistent, concise, easy to read, easy to understand, and accurate. It’s even easy to refresh content this way. That’s why these standards are part of our strategy and what we recommend to organizations that ask us for assistance in creating or migrating content.
We can help! We edit, write, organize, re-organize), and create intranet content strategies. We even create governance plans and lead those discussions among content authors.