Designing a World-Class Corporate Intranet

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Authors: Maggie LaNasa, Jim Wakely, Jack Fahden

Creating a world-class corporate intranet is a critical undertaking for any organization looking to foster effective internal communication, streamline processes and enhance employee engagement. According to a study by Nielsen Norman Group, companies that invest in UX can increase employee productivity by up to 200%.

As an experienced agency with a track record of successful intranet projects, we understand the importance of best practices in creating an intranet that truly meets the needs of the organization and its employees. In this article, we will outline the top considerations for companies rebuilding (or creating for the first time) an intranet. Then we’ll switch gears and outline the top technology trends in 2023 for intranet features.

"Companies that invest in UX of an intranet can increase employee productivity by up to 200%."

- Nielsen Norman Group

Top Considerations and Tips for Designing a World-Class Corporate Intranet

Define Clear Objectives

Before diving into the design process, it is crucial to define clear objectives for the intranet. What are the specific goals the organization wants to achieve with the intranet? Is it to improve internal communication, streamline processes or enhance collaboration? Understanding the objectives upfront will guide the design and development process and ensure that the intranet achieve the organization's overall goals.

Audit and Understand User Needs

The success of an intranet depends on how well it meets the needs of its users, which are the employees. Conducting thorough research to understand user needs is a critical step in the design process. This can involve surveys, interviews, and usability testing to gather feedback from employees on their preferences, pain points and expectations. Incorporating user-centric design principles and involving employees in the process will result in an intranet that truly serves their wants and needs.

Prioritize User Experience (UX)

A seamless and intuitive user experience is essential for the success of an intranet. Employees should be able to easily navigate the intranet, find the information they need, and complete tasks efficiently. The intranet should have a clean and visually appealing design with a consistent layout, typography and color scheme. The use of clear and concise language, icons and visuals can further enhance the UX.

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Foster Collaboration and Communication

When collaboration and communication is a primary purpose of an intranet, it should provide tools and features that enable employees to easily collaborate on projects, share documents, and communicate with each other. Features such as discussion forums, team spaces and messaging tools can promote collaboration and enhance communication across the organization.

Design Mobile First

In today's mobile-driven workforce, it is essential to design an intranet that is mobile responsive. A survey by Deloitte found that 85% of employees use mobile devices for work-related activities, with 77% believing that it helps them do their job more efficiently. As a result, employees should be able to access the intranet from any device, including smartphones and tablets, and have a consistent experience across all devices. Responsive design ensures that the intranet is accessible and usable on different screen sizes, enhancing the overall user experience. But, that isn’t always a simple thing to do because of our next point: security, compliance and governance.

Ensure Security, Compliance and Governance

As intranets often contain sensitive company information, ensuring robust security and compliance measures is critical. The intranet should have robust access controls, authentication mechanisms, and data encryption to protect against unauthorized access and data breaches. Compliance with relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR and HIPAA, should also be ensured as needed. Lastly, make sure you have a plan for governance. Intranets have a sneaky habit of becoming a dumping grounds for documents and information, and if not cleaned-up regularly can become crowded, messy, and outdated.

Plan for Scalability

Organizations evolve over time, and so do their intranet needs. It is crucial to plan for scalability and future growth when designing an intranet. The intranet should be flexible and adaptable to accommodate changing requirements, technologies, and user needs. Regular updates and enhancements should be part of the intranet's roadmap, sitemap, IA and governance plan to ensure its continued effectiveness and relevance.

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Current Trends in 2023 for Building Intranets

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

AI and automation are increasingly being integrated into intranets to streamline processes, increase efficiency and improve user experience. For example, chatbots can be used to provide automated support and assistance to employees, while machine learning algorithms can analyze data to provide personalized content and recommendations. AI-powered search capabilities can also enhance the intranet's ability to surface relevant information and improve overall search accuracy.

Integration with Other Business Systems

Intranets are no longer standalone platforms, but are integrated with other business systems to create a seamless digital workplace experience. Integration with tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, human resources management systems (HRMS), project management tools and document management systems can streamline workflows, enhance collaboration and improve overall productivity. This integration allows employees to access and interact with relevant information and tools from a single unified platform—making their work more efficient and effective.

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Personalization and Customization

Similar to how personalized experiences are expected in the consumer world, employees now expect the same level of personalization in their intranet experience. Intranets are increasingly incorporating features that allow for personalized content and customization based on individual roles, interests and preferences. This includes personalized news feeds, dashboards and notifications, as well as the ability to customize layout, colors and themes. Personalization can greatly enhance employee engagement and make the intranet more relevant and useful to each individual user.

Social and Collaborative Features

Collaboration and social features are key drivers of employee engagement and productivity. Intranets are incorporating social and collaborative features that enable employees to connect, share, and collaborate with each other in real-time. Features such as social networking, discussion forums, blogs and wikis promote knowledge sharing, idea generation and employee engagement. These collaborative features foster a sense of community and encourage employees to contribute their insights and expertise to the organization, resulting in a more collaborative and innovative workplace culture.

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As you can see, designing a world-class corporate intranet requires careful consideration of various factors such as content, functionality, integration, personalization, mobility, collaboration and user experience. And we believe keeping up with the latest trends and best practices in intranet design is crucial to ensure that your intranet remains relevant, effective and user-centric. By defining clear objectives, involving employees in the design process, conducting thorough research, planning for scalability and flexibility, and investing in user experience design, your organization can create an intranet that fosters effective communication, enhances collaboration and improves overall productivity.

*All images are original designs by FOLKLORE powered by Midjourney and Adobe.
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