“If you build it, they will come.”
Unfortunately that’s just not the case with intranets. In fact, it’s quite difficult to get employees to adapt to using the intranet every day. Old habits die hard, and if employees don’t find the intranet useful the first or second time they log in, they’ll very easily fall back into their old working habits. It’s necessary to create user engagement so that employees come to view the intranet as vital to their daily activities and as the essential gateway to all of the information and resources that they need.
When creating or assessing your intranet you need to put yourself into the shoes of someone accessing your site for the first time. Does the navigation make sense? Is the purpose of the pages and information clear? Does the landing page filter information from user profiles so that visitors are presented with the tools and information most useful and relevant to their particular roles?
Users must know that your intranet is reliable. Outdated information or broken links will stop employees from trusting and visiting your intranet. You need a dedicated content creation and maintenance team to make sure that the site is continuously updated and that old information is removed.
You may have a lot of great tools and documents stored on your intranet, but if users can’t access them easily and intuitively they may as well not be there at all. Pay attention to information architecture in your planning stages and plot out exactly how you would like users to access the information. Keep things as simple and user-friendly as possible. Users should be able to access the tools they need with no fuss, and leave with the feeling that the site is tailored to their needs.
If a site looks attractive users are going to engage with it more. Visuals can help to guide users to important information and make the information on a page easier to digest at a glance. Make use of white space and keep your pages uncluttered, so that users don’t feel overwhelmed.
Your intranet is much more than an information repository. Intranets provide various ways in which users can collaborate – it’s possible to work on and edit documents together, create team sites dedicated to your particular projects, share calendars and keep track of progress through task lists. It’s also useful to integrate surveys, discussion boards and platforms like Chatter or Yammer into your intranet so that users can interact as freely as they would on social media. Gamification and competitions are also great at driving interaction.
It’s important for employees to feel that they can contribute and have some sort of ownership of your intranet, but you can’t have people creating pages and adding or deleting documents as they see fit. Permissions and security are vital. You need to have a good governance policy that’s enforced.
It’s important to have the content owner’s name on every page they own so that users can easily contact them if something is not working, unclear or if they suspect that information may be out of date. This way any glitches can be easily remedied.
The workforce is now more agile than ever. Your intranet needs to be accessible from any device, so that your employees can log into it when they’re working remotely from home or are on the road. This means adopting a mobile first mentality when designing content and pages.
It’s easy to overlook some small, nitty-gritty details, but these can have a big impact on user experience. For example:
Sometimes it’s impossible to have everything you need, such as specialized tools, built into your intranet platform itself. It’s alright for other digital systems to be used, but your intranet should serve as the primary gateway through which users access links to these systems and everything else needed to get their jobs done.