Summary: As a web designer an intranet company, the first question I typically receive after ‘what do you do’ is ‘what is intranet?’ So I’ve written this blog post to explain the difference between intranet design and website design.
Often when I tell people I work for a company that makes intranets, they think I’m talking about internets. I’m not sure what they think we’re doing, but they’ll usually just smile and nod their heads. I’ll be honest with you, before I started working here I didn’t even know what an intranet was, and I consider myself tech-savvy. I figure I can’t be the only one! Other than the fact that both are made with code, the intranet and the internet are two very different things. I aim to clear up any confusion, as well as explain what is intranet design and how it’s different from web design.
Websites are hosted on the internet and are publicly accessible. They are generally focused on marketing products or services.
An intranet is hosted on a private network that is only accessible by your company, either via an on-premise server or the cloud. Usually, industries that require high security prefer to use a private cloud, or an on-premise intranet, like healthcare or financial industries. Intranets are designed to help companies improve their productivity levels by solving many internal problems that employees face day to day.
Visitors to a company website are generally not very familiar with the company, often they will be first-time visitors. Therefore it is important to design your website with first-time visitors in mind. Usually website content will include information about the company, as well as the products or services they provide. The goal is often to get users to convert, which means to get a visitor to become a customer by buying a product or service.
To convert visitors into paying customers, your website design must make it very easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for, and fast. Most users will stay on a website for less than a minute if their attention isn’t captured right off the bat, or if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do. Surprisingly, users don’t want to have to think, so giving them too much information can often be overwhelming and cause them to leave your site.
Solve this problem by making the call to action (usually clicking a button) the focus of the page, so it is the first thing a visitor will notice. Remember to keep it simple and that white space is your friend!
Intranets are designed very differently because they have a very different goal. There is no need for a prominent call to action, but there’s still a need to make everything simple and easy for staff to find. Intranets are accessed by the same people every day so they become highly familiar to the users. Therefore it is alright to display more links, pages, and apps because users will not feel overwhelmed by something they are so familiar with. One of the most important elements of intranet design is the navigational system. That is where most intranets store links to everything an employee might be looking for, so it’s mandatory to label everything in your navbar very clearly.
Most companies like having separate people directories/sites on their intranet for each of the departments. That way each department can store information relevant to only them on their site. It’s easy to delegate a different admin to each individual site, so one person doesn’t have to be in charge of managing the entire intranet. Intranet Connections intranets are designed so that all customizations can be done in the front-end. That means anyone can update or design them, no coding knowledge is required.
Here’s a screenshot of the navigational system we use on our intranet:
As you can see, we have different sites for all our departments, as well as many relevant links displayed in our drop-down menus. We also use icons to help make the different resources and links easier to locate.
Intranets and websites are considerably different and need to be designed and structured to fit the needs of the users. It is important to understand the goals, requirements, and users of each before diving into the design. If you have any questions on intranet design – leave a comment below!