Lately we have had a few conversations with clients surrounding the design and navigation of their intranet sites. These are clients that have been on the Intranet Connections’ Intranet Software for years, and they are looking to freshen up the site, review content structure and address user expectations.

These days your intranet users are employees who are active with Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and their smart phones. They are more sophisticated and savvy. This doesn’t mean you need to rush out and pay big bucks for an iTunes app on the intranet, but you should be taking a close look at how your intranet provides value to employees. It’s not all about the design, but a few key considerations can go a long way in maximizing the use of your intranet site.

Tip #1 – Make use of new features

When you buy intranet software, you have a fleet of developers providing new features and functionality to your intranet on a regular basis so take advantage of this! When we see a site that is still on version 10 but looks like version 4 we hear “employees don’t like change”. A few weeks later we hear that there are complaints by users who want changes and better functionality. Listen to your employees needs and make use of your upgrades. Implement new features. If they don’t resonate, you can always turn them off.

Tip #2 – Use a clean, fresh design

When you first go live with your intranet, sometimes it’s good to have a bold design theme, lots of graphics and a few boxes on the intranet home page for social-fun content. This helps to drum up interest and attract employees to the new intranet.

That approach does not work well for a mature intranet. Time to drop the big graphics, move the social-fun content down (below the fold) and ensure that front and center you have content that is important to employees and that helps them to be more productive.

To supplement your navigation and help employees find relevant content easier, add a “top 5 finds” to the intranet home page. Use the Stats & Analytics tool to track what areas of the intranet are most used by employees and put links to these areas in the top 5 box. Encourage your users to fill up their “My Bookmarks” box with content they interact with on a regular basis.

For a mature intranet, try a cleaner, fresher approach to your design theme. Swap that dark blue background color with a clean white. Change the site font color to be gray instead of black. Soft is the way to go here. Anything that fights the content for attention needs to go. Add pizzazz with punches of bright color (in moderation). Add orange, lime, or ocean blue color punches with an intranet logo, font highlight color, link colors and small icons. Add more padding around your navigation and widget boxes. When you have a text-heavy home page, slightly more white space padding helps for better reading. All this can be done with point-and-click options in the Theme Builder.

And always-always put “border=0” in your linked <img> tags (custom message boxes). Nothing looks more like circa 1991 web design than seeing the ugly blue border around a linked graphic.

Tip #3 – Rethink your navigation

Think Labels. A menu item called “General Information” does what exactly for employees? Now a menu item labelled “Employee Info, Events & Resources” is something I would click on expecting to find value for me, the employee.

The order of your navigation is also very important. Based on the Worldwide Intranet Challenge [] employees go to the intranet to find other employees, to find documents that help them do their job, and to perform tasks like filling out a vacation request form. Based on this, perhaps your first listed navigation items should look like:

  • People Directory
  • Documents & Resources
  • Fill out an Online Form
Submit a Support Ticket

Yes your users may get confused at first because what they are used to has now changed, but if you re-order the navigation based on what they look for first on the intranet, you’ll soon be getting kudos instead of complaints.

PS: if your navigation is NOT at the top of the home page real estate, move it on up. Navigation first.

Tip #4 – Give users some power

Although Intranet Connections was originally built with open publishing in mind (open for all employees to publish content) over the years the need for delegated content publishers, security, and content approval workflow has taken over.

If your intranet is ruled more by what managers want than what employees need, take stock in how that is working for the success of your intranet. This is a tool for employees; they need a voice on their tool. Of course there will be areas that are sensitive, where you need security and to run tight control over what is being published. But create areas where you can open it up to all employees and encourage participation and collaboration. Get your employees involved – you might be surprised at their level of responsibility and ability to share valuable information. Suggestion Box, Discussion Forum, News, Blogs and Knowledge Center are good collaborative applications that can engage your employees.

Intranet Design Examples

All of these examples were accomplished with the customization and theme options built into Intranet Connections – you can do this too! You don’t need to be a professional designer. Changing a theme is quick and can be done in a draft state. Play around with colors and show it to your team before you go live with the new design. And we are here to help – that’s our job, so give us a call or send us an email.

Also check out What Attractive Intranets Look Like by Step Two Designs

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