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The power of great intranet design

Introduction

Historically, intranets haven’t exactly been at the cutting edge of design and user experience.

Issues such as confusing layouts, cluttered elements and 2000s-era stylings have been common, and this has led to a general lack of excitement whenever your Comms, IT or HR team have announced that they are bringing in a new intranet.

Part of this is understandable, an intranet is a business-critical tool and as such, functionality is more imporant than design (or as your IT department may say “looking pretty”). 

However, with the constant evolution of digital technologies and a user base who are more and more expecting the tools they use to look and behave in a way that they are used to, good design is no longer a “cherry on top”. It is essential to good user experience.

Benefits of an intranet

A good intranet can enable better, more consistent communications in your organisation, drive collaboration within workforce, increase efficiency and better align your staff to your business values.

However, these benefits can only be achieved if your intranet has a good user experience. Confusing information architecture or badly designed pages can not only impede the adoption of the intranet but can actually drive user-dropoff. 

User experience consideration very often comes far too late in the process of moving to a new intranet (or reevaluating a current one), when a simple diagram of what journeys you want your users to take or simply asking your users what they want to see can greatly improve usability and user experience.

Benefits of good intranet design

We live in an age where users not only have extremely high expectation for usability and personalisation but one where these needs are met, regularly, by a whole host of tools and companies which users interact with on a day-to-day basis. 

Good user experience is no longer optional, it is essential.

When designing your intranet there are several key considerations to take into account:

  • What type of people are your users? (tech-savvy, communication driven etc.).
  • What tools do they already use?
  • What processes/best practices have they got used to as a result?
  • What do these users need to do on a day-to-day basis?
  • What is most important to them?
  • What journey do you want them to take?
  • What journey do THEY want to take?

By considering these factors, without any complex user journey diagrams or wireframes, you will have greatly improved the experience they will have on the intranet.

Another thing to consider (briefly touched on above in the “what tools do they already use?” question) is consistency. Users expect things to behave a certain way, and as such if they are confused by conflicting processes etc. they will simply not use the product.

Key takeaways

Set out your goals at the beginning

Take into account the key considerations mentioned above, perform some user research (even a little goes a long way), and most importantly, set yourself achievable goals which you can accurately measure.

Good user experience is essential

Your users already expect good user experience, so make it a priority! Relate key decisions back to how it will affect the user, drive consistency with style guides, writing guides etc. and build the intranet your users will love.

Steal ideas (not literally)

There are a lot of people out there, and chances are that some of them have encountered similar issues to you and may have already found solutions to them that you possibly have not thought of. Content platforms such as Medium regularly post content about user experience and user interface design, and while a lot of these may not be directly relevant to your organisation, there are a lot of good ideas that you can appropriate in order to drive evolution in your digital workplace.