Five Things You Think Your Intranet Needs For Better UX- But It Doesn't

Carlos Ruiz, Account Director
#Design | Posted

It’s 3am and you just shot out of bed with a great idea for how to improve traffic or adoption of your intranet and you rush to implement it.  However, if your idea is one of the five below you might want to consider going back to bed and thinking it through a bit longer.

1. To be “Facebooked”

Every few years a new intranet buzzword will run through the intranet/portal world like wild fire.  The term-du-jour seems to be “social media components”; when pressed for an explanation of what that means and what this would look like, it is common to hear “I don’t know, more like Facebook.”  I warn against fads but promote any opportunity to increase your audience’s engagement with content.

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Instead of rolling out a discussion board on every page that will be stale within 2 months, think about where you can introduce targeted feedback and engagement loops.  Think about the site or content that would be great to get feedback on or collect thoughts around it.  No one is rushing to “like” the latest expense report policy.

2. All Content - All The Time

There is a balance between too little and too much content; sometimes that balance is hard to find and often companies will err on the side of “more.”  You may have that intranet admin that feels that you should squeeze just one more widget onto your homepage all in the name of trying to be all things to all people. The risk is that you could be diluting the other content on the page.  Avoid creating clutter and really scrutinize the purpose of every piece of content on your site.

Functionality from the Early 2000’s

In the same vein of wanting to add more I am sometimes approached about adding old functionality like weather widgets or stock tickers. The idea being that this is something that a visitor to the site would pull value from because it is on the site.  We’re now fully in the age of smartphones and many of these devices have these apps out of the box.

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Save the development/implementation effort it would take to implement widgets, and spend that time on introducing fresh content that will actually drive engagement. Content on your intranet, especially the landing page should be driving the audience to other parts of the site.

OCD - Intranet Style

A properly implemented taxonomy is critical to a successful intranet; however, like all things too much can be bad.  I have seen taxonomies so specific that there are terms per specific item - you want your term sets to be broad enough to apply to a few elements.  Taxonomies are supposed to help categorize and make logical sense of large amounts of data; they are not meant to be be individual containers of information.  Fight the temptation to add too much structure that you make it a headache to manage the system.

The same applies to folders.  Few things puzzle me as much as why people still insist on using folders today.  They are an extremely limited and archaic way to organize data that results in more bad behavior than good (i.e. duplicating files).  Leave complex folder hierarchies, or really any folder structure, next to your cassette and VHS collection.

Navigation Overload

It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but try and avoid the temptation to replace all text with pictures, icons, and buttons. This is another internet/intranet element from the 90’s-00’s.  Just because you replace a text link with a picture does not necessarily mean you have created less clutter or improved navigation - the focus should be on meaningful content not just different ways to load more content on the page.  Beware of iconography because it can easily lead to more confusion or slow adoption as your audience tries to figure out what your imagery is supposed to represent.

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This also goes for “quick links” that are not quick to get through. The idea starts off innocent enough “let me provide my audience a list of commonly used sites or systems to help them have a quick way of navigating to them.”  This often turns into a long list of links that take too long to search through to find the site; challenge yourself to find more dynamic ways to put those resources where your audience needs them.

Be An Intranet Miser

The idea of intranets and portals started off as “put everything your audience might need in one place” and early intranets looked like your kitchen junk draws.  The web has become more beautiful and Apple’s marketing team keeps drilling us with the idea of “less is more” and chances are your audience is expecting the same from the intranet.  Most people look at a crowded intranet and decide they don’t have time to spend looking for what they need.

The rule of thumb for adding content and functionality should always start with one question:

What is the goal or business purpose for adding this?

Use that simple question to guide your decision making and really challenge yourself to take a minimalist approach to your intranet; be as frugal as you can with the real estate on your intranets.

Want to learn more about social collaboration system best practices? Check out "Why Your Employees Hate Your Intranet." Learn about new user experience functionality in Open Atrium in this month's Open Atrium Webinar!

 

Carlos Ruiz

Account Director