After attending Intranets2014 in Sydney and returning with a new understanding about the importance of a great intranet, we wanted to explore the topic further. So we ran a competition asking 'What makes a good intranet?' Here's a brief summary of the common threads in the entries we received.
Designed for real people
Intranets should be designed with 'a solid focus on what people are looking for, rather than reflecting the organisation's structure.' Others said that a good intranet 'should be a place where users immediately see the value to their day to day job without having to search or dig deeper', and that intranets should contain 'content that people actually use.'
Mentioned a few times was the need for intranets to make a good 'fit' with a company: 'A good intranet efficiently delivers function and information in context of a company's culture'. And 'intranet design should mimic the personality of an organisation — don't try to be hip and young if your employees are classy and mature.'
To take the potential for great intranet UX even further, another person suggested that 'a good intranet delivers targeted content to the user based on their role in the organization.' And a quarter of responses agreed that the success of an intranet should be measured on 'usability and user adoption' above everything else.
Over half of our entries mentioned the need for simplicity in intranet usability. People want 'simple choices, and minimal navigation and tags' in intranets they use, as well as a search function 'that works and doesn't overwhelm'. Intranets should also be 'as easy to use as email, only less cluttered and less demanding' and 'an intranet homepage populated by hundreds of unrelated links does not an appealing experience make.'
We heard that intranets aren't meant to be 'a dashboard clone of existing web content like stock price, weather, and traffic' and that they shouldn't be' overly developed with pet features that employees don't want or use'. Someone else said plainly they wanted 'no internal marketing junk'. And to wrap up, 'intranets need to strip away anything that isn't used daily by people' and leave behind 'just the basics'.
Designed by people who care
Good intranets are created and run by 'talented, experienced, and thoughtful' people who 'produce valuable content in a strong information architecture.' We heard from someone who's work intranet is run by 'a creative team who always look for ways to delight, inspire, and amuse employees' — an experience that has probably 'ruined me for other intranets.'
We also had a plea that intranets no longer be treated like the 'step-child of the marketing department that gets neglected', and a big shout out to intranet teams that 'value us as much as the website team values customers'.
A word about our competition
We asked James Robertson to judge the entries, which is rather apt because James is a world expert on intranet design and the author of our giveaway book, Designing Intranets: Creating sites that work.
And our winner is Tristan Plank, a Seattle-based UX designer, who won with an entry that James said nailed the 'fundamentals' of intranet design: 'A solid focus on what people are looking for, rather than a site reflecting the organization's structure. Search that works. No internal marketing junk.' Nice one, Tristan. We love the simplicity of your answer as well. The book is on its way!