Top 7 Tips To Achieve The Best Intranet Designs

By Elizabeth George
September 21, 2015
6 min read
intranet design

Summary: What is the Intranet Design Annual report? What trends were identified in the winners of the best intranet designs? Mobile access to intranet pages, agile development, mega-menu navigation, picture sharing, employee profiles, and more!

Each year the Nielsen Norman Group publishes the Intranet Design Annual1 which digs deep to select 10 winners in their intranet design contest. From the detailed case studies, we have distilled the top 7 intranet design trends that will transform your intranet from diamond-in-the-rough to sparkling gemstone!

Responsive Design and Mobile Considerations

Although mobile design has been slow to gain traction in intranet designs, this year’s Design Annual saw an increase in accessibility to certain pages from a mobile device. The Design Annual attributes this up-turn to an increase in the use of smartphones by many employees. Although not all winners had a ‘mobile first’ approach they all gave consideration to mobile access, and similar to Intranet Connections, had a few key mobile-friendly features. For example, we have made our most-used intranet applications mobile-friendly such as Employee Directory, Alerts, and Enterprise Search, which are available in a mobile view when an employee logs onto the intranet from their phone. We are happy to see this trend continuing to grow and to know that Intranet Connections is ahead of the curve. Regardless of your industry, your work may not always be conducted in a workplace, and for this reason, this trend is given the sparkling top position on our list of intranet design trends.

Agile Development

What is Agile Development? As discussed in a previous post, one can think of agile development as an iterative process that breaks the work of building software into manageable “sprints”. A sprint is a short-term, highly focused development cycle. The goal of agile development is to incrementally build software over a series of sprints to achieve an end product that is well tested and more accurately meets the needs of end-users.

So how did this trend emerge in this year’s Design Annual and how can an intranet created using Agile Development ensure your intranet will shine bright? The Design Annual found that among the winners, many are using an intranet that considers the need of the end-users and have set short and long-term goals to ensure everything is working as planned along the way. That is how Intranet Connections creates and continues to improve, our out-of-the-box solution. With our development team doing the work, you and your employees can be rest assured that we are providing an intranet with many facets that reflect the hard work and passion of your employees.

Mega Menu Navigation

The Design Annual found that, amongst this year’s winners, many intranet designs used Mega Menus to present menu links in a way that would prevent overwhelming employees with choices. Mega Menus are a great tool to use for navigation, like sifting through the earth to find that much sought-after gold. That being said, Design Annual did recognize this year’s Mega Menus are being more thoughtfully designed and therefore shrinking the size to a more manageable view. The winning intranet designs used top-level subcategories for each high-level category, along with a list of links to popular content. We covered Task-Based vs. Topic-Based Intranet Navigation in a previous post that covered the benefits of each, and how to build your intranet navigation.

TIP: Some intranet designs included a search bar in their Mega Menu if a link wasn’t represented in the subcategory.

Photos and Picture Sharing

The Design Annual identified that some organizations’ original photographs were being used directly in the design of their intranet pages, which allows employees to engage with the company’s image and can help build their brand’s identity. Some of the winners pride themselves on using real images of employees and events vs. stock photos. This stance empowers employees to upload their own images, interact with their intranet, and feel that they are a part of their brand’s culture.

Localized and Improved Search

Front-end users expect that when they fill in a search field it will return helpful results. When it comes to searching an intranet, some search results aren’t always easy to sift through, nor are they always the most relevant. Because of this, the Design Annual found many intranets improving upon their search interface. Some have gone with ‘local search’, meaning they have a search bar on each page that will find sources listed in that area, while others have used a more ‘robust search’, similar to Intranet Connections Super Search. Super Search fills in any gaps the previous search functionality had, completely revolutionizing search on your intranet.

Updated Employee Profiles

Intranet administrators are identifying the importance of updating Employee Profiles with personal touches. The leading intranets recognized the Employee Directory as a key component for internal knowledge by helping employees find and contact experts within an organization. Now, however, teams are working to help users keep that information up-to-date and relevant. Some of the winners encouraged users through a reward system, such as offering an employee recognition for a job well done, asking employees to share success (such as learning something new or passing an online quiz), or promoting a project they are currently working on. Other winning intranet designs offered shortcuts to getting updates made such as a staff photo day to encourage employees to add a photo to their profiles, as well as adding links to their social accounts, such as LinkedIn, so other employees have quick access to further information about their colleagues.

Change Management

Change management is the process of easing colleagues into a new design. Many intranet managers realize that springing a new design on employees can cause havoc as people are often quick to dislike something new and unexpected. The winning intranet designers communicated with, and involved, their colleagues throughout the redesign process.

With Intranet Connections’ drag-and-drop editing abilities as well as intuitive design features, we make change easy. We allow you set the pace of change to ensure feedback can be received with tools such as a Suggestion Box or an Online Survey to get valuable employee feedback throughout the process. Managing the changes you apply to your intranet allows employees to maintain productivity and stay engaged throughout the redesign.

TIP: When changes are made gradually it can be difficult for people to recognize the magnitude of the evolution. Take a screenshot of your intranet before you begin a redesign. Once the redesign has been completed, share the side-by-side comparison with your employees!

Bonus: Planning for ongoing success

Many of the winners had a specific plan for continual improvements and learned along the way how to ensure the success of their intranet. Some key tips for ongoing success are:

  • Governance is needed to ensure a redesigned intranet is useful over time. Consider having an Intranet Champion
  • Clutter can build so have a process in place to determine what items can be archived after a certain amount of time has passed

Intranet designs are all unique, but these trends help us to sort out what features can be applied universally and help all intranets shine bright like a diamond. Have you applied any of these design tips to your intranet? Do you have some of your own? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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1Pernice, K., Schade, A., McCloskey, P., Caya, & J., Neilsen Intranet Design Annual 2014 (The Year’s 10 Best Intranets). Fremont, CA: Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved September 4, 2015, from Intranet Design Annual’s 10 Best Intranet Designs.

By Elizabeth George

Elizabeth has been involved in the tech start-up world for many years, bringing her strong marketing skills, brand building abilities and social media saavy approach to the Intranet Connections team. With a passion for aesthetics, and a results driven work ethic, she brings a unique approach to the marketing world and enjoys working with a team to creatively strengthen a brand’s identity. When Elizabeth isn’t at the office, she enjoys reading books, watching movies and exploring the city with her dog, Chandler Bing.