If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, it’s likely you’ve already invested significant time evaluating intranet solutions: finding the right fit, getting stakeholder buy-in and procuring a platform. It’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty of designing your site. This can seem like a daunting task, so start by breaking it down into more manageable chunks.
To start, it’s important you establish a vision for your intranet. What are you trying to accomplish? These could be anything from connecting your workforce, building your culture, sharing corporate news, centralizing documentation or automating business processes. I would suggest identifying what is most important to you and your team, then brainstorm the features needed to support it.
Example: Automating business process
Once you have a clear idea of what’s need, before you start building applications, pages and online forms and exposing them in your navigation, it’s best to get input from those you’ll be serving. Things you could try at this point could be site mapping, card sorting and categorization. You want to learn how your end users think your content should be grouped and termed. You also want a clear understanding of the stories your intranet will entail.
Example Story: As a road warrior, I need a place to easily log my travel expenses, share them with accounting and be reimbursed as quickly as possible.
Which intranet features you choose will depend on the requirements you’ve identified.
Are you trying to build a sub community in your organization? Perhaps one for a department, a project team, a committee or board. Well then you should create a site for that. Sites allow for easy delegation and security management as well as clear organization of content and even custom theming.
Do you just need some quick static content wiki-style and don’t need features like reviews, versioning, approval, archiving or cleanup? You could probably just create content pages and organize them hierarchically as needed.
Or, if you need richer functionality to support more specific needs like event management, training, support desk ticketing, document management or news, it’s likely you need to provision a feature-rich application that comes with all of these things.
Pages and applications will live in a site context, whether that is the “Home” site for more general assets or a specific sub-site if they are oriented just to that sub-community.
Assuming you’ve now built out the sites, apps and pages of content to meet your needs, you now need to expose them in an intuitive way. Menus can consist of single clickable links, drop downs, or full Mega Menus. Here are some tips for information architecture based on best practices:
Your intranet should come with reporting built-in that exposes popularity of content, whether that be site, app or page visits. Know the size of your user base and set goals of how much time you want them spending on the intranet and how to measure adoption and engagement. I would make a habit of regularly reviewing this and adjusting navigation and home or sub site widgets as appropriate. For content that is getting no traffic either delete or archive it. If you still think this content is useful, find a way to drive users there.
The final piece is a powerful and relevant global search. Your end users will not always know where to go find what they’re looking for. They may not even know if it exists. This is particularly true for newer employees. A global search box should be in the top right of your intranet, it’s where people expect it to be. And when they search, the terms used should matter the most, not any upfront expectation of what to search for.