Intranet Design Best Practices To Create an Engaging Digital Workplace
The intranet has evolved significantly over the years, becoming an indispensable tool for many organizations. Implementing intranet design best practices not only facilitates communication but also enhances collaboration, making it crucial for businesses to stay updated with the latest trends.
That said, many people are far from embracing the strides intranet technology has taken, let alone implementing intranet design best practices. The mere word brings up memories of wading through older systems suffering from poor user interface and experience, making navigation difficult and tasks cumbersome.
The good news is, the “old” intranet is gone. Dead. Thanks to the expanded awareness of intranet design best practices, Intranets today are designed to be user-friendly, with a collaborative purpose, and as a social portal that not only benefits you but your company as well.
The evolution of intranet design best practices
From its inception as a basic internal network to its current state as a dynamic digital workplace, the intranet and what is considered the best intranet design has seen a remarkable transformation. Over the years, the focus has shifted from merely sharing information to fostering a culture of collaboration and engagement. Some key milestones in the development of intranet design best practices include:
- Transition from static pages to interactive platforms
- Integration of social media features for enhanced communication
- Shift towards mobile-responsive designs for on-the-go access
To delve deeper into the evolution of intranet designs, this resource offers a comprehensive overview of its journey and the factors that have shaped its current form.
How to design an intranet: common issues in the process
Despite the advancements in intranet design best practices, several common challenges persist for an intranet designer. Addressing these issues is crucial for ensuring an optimal user experience.
Navigation and Search:
One of the primary challenges users face with many intranets is the issue of navigation and search. Utilizing intranet design best practices during development should result in a system that guides users seamlessly to the information they seek, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many users grapple with confusing navigation systems, often a result of poorly structured menus or overly complex categorizations. This confusion can lead to wasted time and increased frustration as employees try to find the resources or tools they need.
Compounding this issue is the presence of redundant links. Instead of utilizing intranet design best practices to simplify the user journey, multiple links leading to the same content can create a maze-like experience. Such redundancies not only confuse users but also clutter the interface, making it appear disorganized and unprofessional. To design an intranet with effectiveness in mind, it’s imperative that these navigation and search challenges are addressed, ensuring a streamlined and user-friendly experience.
A significant hurdle in maximizing the utility of intranet design best practices lies in the realm of content presentation. When content is not well-organized or formatted, it becomes a deterrent rather than an asset. Users can easily become overwhelmed or disinterested when faced with walls of text, unclear headings, or a lack of visual breaks. Such poor structuring can make even the most valuable information seem inaccessible or irrelevant. Moreover, the absence of feedback mechanisms exacerbates this issue. Without a clear avenue for users to voice their concerns, provide suggestions, or highlight areas of improvement, organizations are left in the dark about the actual user experience. This lack of feedback creates a disconnect between intranet administrators and users, hindering the platform’s evolution and adaptability. For intranets to truly serve their purpose, it’s essential that the intranet designer prioritizes clear content presentation and establishes robust feedback channels, ensuring that the platform remains dynamic, user-centric, and continually improving.
Design plays a pivotal role in the efficacy and appeal of intranets, and unfortunately, it’s an area where many platforms fall short. One glaring issue is inconsistent design. When there’s a lack of uniformity across pages, whether in terms of color schemes, typography, or layout, the intranet can come across as disjointed and unprofessional. This inconsistency not only diminishes the platform’s aesthetic appeal but can also confuse users, making navigation and content consumption more challenging.
Additionally, the use of low-quality graphics further compounds these design challenges. Relying on poor resolution images or overusing generic stock photography can make the platform feel impersonal and outdated. Such graphics can detract from the content’s value and undermine the platform’s credibility. For intranets to be effective communication and collaboration tools, it’s imperative that they offer a cohesive, visually appealing, and user-friendly design that resonates with the target audience.
Intranet Design Best Practices For a Digital Workplace
As we move towards 2024, several intranet design best practices are shaping the future of how we use an intranet. These trends are not just about aesthetics but are driven by the changing dynamics of the workplace and the evolving needs of employees.
User-Centered Design (UCD)
With apologies to Albert Einstein, “The only source of knowledge is experience…user experience.” Understanding the user is key in creating a well thought out intranet design. By conducting user research (there are multiple types that are effective) and creating an iterative approach to the design from that feedback, the end result is something that actually fits the current culture of a company and gives the user a sense of ownership in the process.
User-centered design is at the heart of intranet design best practices and manifests itself in many different ways, including in the evolution of the workplace. With the world adapting to the aftermath of the pandemic, intranets are playing a pivotal role in supporting the hybrid work model. Features like desk-booking tools and mobile integrations are ensuring a smooth transition for employees. For instance, tools that allow employees to book desks or integrate built-in virtual meeting rooms are becoming increasingly common.
Once considered an option for many intranets, it’s become a standard in intranet design best practices. By creating a role-based matrix an intranet designer can determine an ideal homepage experience for each and every type of user based on their role within the organization. Once that is accomplished you can also allow users the freedom to further customize their experience. So long, awful tree structure.
According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans have smartphones, which means more than ever before information is not being consumed on a desktop. So designing for a mobile experience only makes sense as our workforce becomes more untethered every day. Even more important it reduces excess that can sometimes accompany intranet design. By focusing on the things that are really important to the user (see user research and personalization) an intranet designer can increase adoption and success.
Connection and Collaboration as a focus
For best practices for intranet design, the need for connection and collaboration has never been more pronounced. With remote work becoming a norm, intranets are bridging the gap by:
- Enhancing productivity through integrated tools
- Fostering professional growth through learning modules
- Building a positive organizational culture through engagement features
To design an intranet has evolved from a simple internal communication tool to a central hub that fosters a sense of community and belonging. As teams spread across different locations and time zones, a platform developed with intranet design best practices in mind provides a unified space where employees can collaborate in real-time, share insights, and celebrate achievements. Features like discussion forums, team chat rooms, and virtual event spaces allow for spontaneous interactions, mimicking the watercooler conversations of a physical office. Moreover, the integration of feedback mechanisms ensures that employees have a voice, promoting transparency and trust. By centralizing resources, facilitating open communication, and promoting continuous learning, intranets are not just enhancing work efficiency but also nurturing a cohesive and inclusive digital workplace culture.
Doing Everything from the Intranet
To design an intranet in 2023 is not just to design a platform for news, but to create a comprehensive workspace. With API integrations with various digital-workplace tools, employees can now complete a myriad of tasks without leaving the intranet. This seamless integration ensures that employees have everything they need at their fingertips.
Of course, there are more than just these five intranet design best practices when building an intranet, but these five are key elements to any successful intranet designer looking to step up their game. The best intranet design for your team is waiting to be unlocked through a thoughtful user experience.
The world of intranet design is vast, and several questions arise when delving into its intricacies. Here are some frequently asked questions:
1Q. What is an intranet?
1A. An intranet is a private network within an organization that allows employees to share information, collaborate on projects, and access shared resources. It’s designed to improve internal communication and streamline business processes.
2Q. What are the benefits of utilizing intranet design best practices?
2A. Utilizing intranet design best practices significantly benefits organizations and their employees. By adhering to these practices, organizations can ensure a user-friendly interface, streamline processes, and boost productivity. This leads to consistent branding, reduced training costs, and higher adoption rates. Furthermore, a well-designed intranet enhances internal communication, security, and scalability. It also fosters a positive organizational culture through collaboration and community-building, incorporates feedback mechanisms for continuous improvement, and ultimately results in cost savings by minimizing redesigns and enhancing overall efficiency.
**3Q. How do AI-powered chatbots enhance intranet usability? ** 3A. AI-powered chatbots offer intuitive interfaces, answer frequently asked questions, provide personalized assistance, and reduce the need for manual support.
**4Q. What are the key features of a modern intranet design? ** 4A. Modern intranets prioritize user experience, integrate seamlessly with other tools, support mobile access, and foster community building. Modern intranets often include features like intelligent search, document management, company news sections, feedback mechanisms, and integration with other enterprise tools.
5Q. How can intranets support hybrid work models?
5A. Intranets are instrumental in facilitating the hybrid work model. They offer desk-booking tools, enabling employees to reserve workspaces, ensuring efficient space utilization. With mobile integrations, intranets ensure accessibility across devices, allowing employees to remain connected irrespective of their location. They also provide resources on remote work best practices, aiding employees in adapting to this new work paradigm. Additionally, by integrating collaboration tools and centralizing communication, intranets promote seamless teamwork and consistent information dissemination across dispersed teams. Feedback mechanisms within intranets capture employee insights as well, refining the hybrid work experience.
The way of the intranet future
Intranet design has come a long way, evolving to meet the changing needs of organizations and their employees. As we move forward, the best intranet design will continue to focus on creating more user-centric, integrated, and versatile intranets. By understanding the current trends and addressing prevalent issues, organizations can harness the full potential of their intranets, ensuring a connected, informed, and engaged workforce.
Michael Montecuollo is the Director User Experience & Design team here at DOOR3 that’s responsible for the award-winning Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP intranet.
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