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6 ways to present quick links on your intranet homepage

Synopsis: See six different examples of how companies have designed the quick links on their intranet homepages, with screenshots and analysis.

The ubiquitous intranet homepage “quick links”

Just about every intranet homepage has some form of “quick links”. On many intranets the list is labelled exactly as that. On other homepages these links are referred to differently. But they always play the same role.

These lists of links are important. They offer direct access to deeper sections of the intranet and to other enterprise applications and websites. Quick links are often a task-based complement to more news-heavy homepages.

So we’ve compiled six different examples of intranet homepage quick links, all from entries in DWG’s My Beautiful Intranet 2014 competition. I hope this helps intranet and digital workplace managers explore what’s possible and what’s popular, and make key design decisions.

Is “quick links” two words or one?

Before we go any further though, let’s try to get some clarity on how to write the words themselves. We see “quick links” written both as two words and as one – “quicklinks”. So which should you use?

If you’re going to use the term, we recommend writing “quick links” as two words. “Quick” is an adjective and “links” is a noun. They go together perfectly. Combining them into one word is unnecessary.

Should I call them “quick links” or not?

In the example intranet screenshots below, you’ll see intranet homepage link lists referred to in a variety of ways. Obviously there is no single correct way to do this.

But we do suggest you consider labelling your quick links with more descriptive terms. You can even break out quick links into groups of related links and label each group with a clear name. This will help you get Naturally Acquired Links linking to your website and boosting your SEO in the process.

Web and intranet usability expert Gerry McGovern recommends that you never use the term “quick links”. Basically he thinks the term is too vague to be useful.

In the six examples in this article, you’ll see quick links referred to in these different ways:

  • “Popular Resources” – more descriptive, suggests user influence.
  • “Launch Application”– narrows the scope of the list.
  • “I would like to:”– action-oriented for the user.
  • “Key links” and “Admin links” – links broken into two sections.
  • “Quick Links” – the standard.
  • “Essential Links” – a little more descriptive than “quick”.

So, what label works well for you? Or rather, for your users?

Eight ways to make your quick links better

In The curse of intranet quick links (and how to do them right) Lou Bloom, one of DWG’s usability benchmarkers, explains all the ways quick links can go wrong and offers these eight tips for designing your lists of links well:

  1. Choose links by popularity and importance, not politics.
  2. Keep the list short and scannable.
  3. Link directly to applications, forms, etc.
  4. Write clear, simple, jargon-free link text.
  5. Note “new window” and file formats with icons.
  6. Indicate if a separate login is needed.
  7. Let users add their own links.
  8. Offer a roll-over explanation.

Six examples of quick links on intranet homepages

Adobe – “Popular Resources”

Adobe intranet homepage quick links screenshot Adobe intranet homepage quick links analysis

Adobe’s list of quick links sits on the left-hand side of the homepage. The list is called “Popular Resources” and an insider tells us that the list is partially personalized. This means some of the links change based on users’ location, department and job role, while other links are the same for everyone. Personalization is a big bonus here as most “global” link lists are only partially relevant to each employee.

What could make this list of quick links better? A few links have names of tools/sites without plain English explanations (e.g. “Goldmine”). Imagine a new employee on her first day; which of these links wouldn’t be clear to her? We always recommend plain, everyday language for intranet links, navigation and headings, unless there is a clear rationale to do otherwise.

ACCA – “Key links” and “Admin links”

ACCA intranet homepage quick links screenshot ACCA intranet homepage quick links analysis

ACCA’s quick links are split into three sections. “Key” links sounds just slightly more specific than “quick” links and “Admin links” suggests daily operational tools. But the question is whether users can make a clear delineation. “Popular pages” is a good way to make quick links dynamic and socially-driven.

What could make this list of quick links better? The names for the two groups of links may not sound different enough to users. What sort of “admin” tasks are covered in that section? Perhaps a little user involvement (card sorting) to group these links and label the groups would help improve the lists or confirm that they’re brilliant just the way they are.

AmBank – “Launch Application”

AmBank intranet homepage quick links screenshot AmBank intranet homepage quick links analysis

AmBank’s approach is much more specific than listing “quick links”. The list only includes applications, which is more specific than other headings and is written in an action-oriented way. Additionally, the drop-down list format saves space on the homepage.

What could make this list of quick links better? Well, we haven’t seen the list itself, so it’s hard to say. One reservation about this approach: “Applications” can include a variety of unrelated tools for several different audiences. Is the list personalized so users see the applications most commonly used by people in their role? And are the applications listed by the software names (e.g. “AcmePayOne” or “SuperDocPlus”) or with plain language that describes what the tools do (e.g. “Timesheets” or “Document approvals”)?

ARI – “I would like to:”

ARI intranet homepage quick links screenshot ARI intranet homepage quick links analysis

This approach by ARI is perhaps our favourite. This heading for quick links positions the reader/user as the actor and allows all the links to be written as action-oriented tasks.

What could make this list of quick links better? The use of unexplained acronyms might not pass the “new employee test”. But perhaps new employees wouldn’t be “creating a new ATG eSARF” on their first day. The alphabetical listing is by verb, not topic; perhaps organizing the list by a different rationale would make it easier for users, but that could be discovered through simple user testing.

Suncor – “Quick Links” drop-down menu

Suncor intranet homepage quick links screenshot Suncor intranet homepage quick links analysis

Suncor uses the standard “Quick Links” label (notice the term is two words, not one), but opts for a drop-down list. As with AmBank’s “Launch Application” drop-down, this approach is thrifty in the use of valuable homepage real estate.

What could make this list of quick links better? As with the “Launch Application” list, we haven’t seen the actual list. So, the usual questions apply: How is the list sorted? Are links written in plain English? Are they grouped? Has user testing been done and how have the links been chosen? You might want to quote other websites even. If you did learn how to cite a website at louder.online.

UNUM – Grouped, labelled quick links

UNUM intranet homepage quick links screenshot UNUM intranet homepage quick links analysis

UNUM uses “essential” in place of “quick” links and then offers more links sorted into groups with fairly clear headings. This approach is very helpful, especially for longer lists of links. One of the main challenges of quick links is that they pool together highly varied tools and content that wouldn’t normally be grouped together. UNUM’s approach nicely addresses this issue.

What could make this list of quick links better? As with other examples here, would this list pass the “new employee test”? What makes the “essential links” so important? Perhaps a more descriptive term could be used. Are any parts of the list personalized, such as the applications?


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About the author

Ephraim Freed, Communications Manager for the Digital Workplace Group (DWG)Ephraim Freed is a communicator and self-proclaimed “intranet nerd”.

Ephraim works at Riot Games now, but previously worked at DWG overseeing marketing, facilitating in-person & online member events and hosting our monthly webinar, Digital Workplace Live.

Prior to that, as a writer and professional services consultant for social intranet software company, ThoughtFarmer and managed internal communications and launched a social intranet at Oxfam America.

In his spare time Ephraim raises his two baby girls, goes trail running and plays many sports with great mediocrity.

5 Comments

  1. Hello Ephraim, thank you for your very informative blog on intranets. I am doing some research for my company on intranets. We use SharePoint 2010 but the homepage is drab. Nothing like your examples above. I will be meeting with my IT dept to see if they can help develop a landing page that will have some style similar to your examples. Can you tell me what tools or skills are needed to transform SharePoint as you have done? I am most concerned about having an esthetically please site that will achieve the communication goals. I do not have an IT background, so I am hoping you can let me know what is required technically to then talk to my IT dept to see if they have the capacity to create pages like you have.

    Thank you,

    Melody

    Reply
  2. Nice summary and some good points. Over time, IBM has used a combination of Essential Links, Popular Links and My Links, in various positions on the intranet home page. One sentence really resonates: Choose the links by popularity [read, usage] and importance, not politics.

    Reply
  3. Ephraim Freed

    Thanks for sharing your experience at IBM Jim. I like that trifecta – a combination of what the intranet team thinks is important (“essential links”), socially-generated links (“popular links”) and a customized list (“my links”).

    You’ve probably found the single most important sentence in this article and it applies to all intranet and especially homepage design: get politics out of the equation.

    The user-first mentality is perhaps the biggest factor in intranet design; if you put the user first, then so many decision-making processes change in nature, resulting in a very different intranet than if stakeholder politics are the primary influencing factor.

    Yet so many intranet teams struggle mightily with politics.

    Reply
  4. Ephraim Freed

    Melody – first off, good luck! Sound like a big project before you.

    A couple of notes in response to your comment…

    1: LEARN AS MUCH ABOUT INTRANET-RELATED IT AND SHAREPOINT AS YOU CAN

    For starters, ask your IT department to explain what they can and suggest what you should learn about. Being able to converse with IT and both understand their language and speak in their language can go a long way.

    A few technical terms to make sure you know:

    – HTML
    – CSS
    – Javascript
    – Server
    – Firewall
    – DMZ (in relation to computer networks)
    – Authentication
    – Single sign-on (SSO)
    – SSL (secure socket layer)
    – Active Directory
    – LDAP
    – Any SharePoint-specific terminology

    2. START WITH THE BUSINESS NEED, NOT TECHNICAL OR VISUAL DESIGN

    The last thing you want to do is start with a conversation about SharePoint. This frames the entire intranet as a purely technical project. It’s not.

    An intranet is a tool for helping employees do their jobs and connect with the company. As such, you need to understand employees’ needs and the business’ needs related to the intranet. Observe users working, ask them about what information and tools they use most during their work day, interview department heads and executives about the biggest challenges the business faces and that they or their divisions face.

    Think of it this way: You wouldn’t search for a house to buy by first asking what brand of furnace it uses. Instead, you think about what you need out of the house and what your priorities are. Then you find houses that will meet your needs and lastly do inspections to make sure the “technology” is adequate.

    3: SKILLS FOR REDESIGNING A SHAREPOINT HOMEPAGE

    As for your actual question, here are some final thoughts on the ideal skills/people needed:

    You need a user experience designer (UXD) who can research user needs, run user-centered processes to create and test wireframes and mockups.

    You need a graphic designer – someone who is trained in visual design who can make it look pretty and well-branded.

    You need a web designer – someone who can work with HTML, CSS, Javascript to implement what the graphic designer comes up with.

    You need a SharePoint specialist who can manipulate SharePoint features and code in order to deliver the functionality.

    You need a system admin/network engineer who can ensure the servers, network setup, Active Directory settings, etc are all setup properly to support your intranet and the functionality you want to use in SharePoint.

    Not all of these roles have to be different people – your SharePoint specialist might also be your system admin. Your graphic designer might also be your web designer. Etc. But these are the roles that you would ideally have.

    The single most important skill is not a skill, but a perspective or approach and it’s what I mentioned in my comment above in response to Jim: thinking about the user first and foremost.

    This means thinking of intranet homepage design not as a technical challenge or visual design challenge, but as a challenge of understanding your users’ needs from the homepage and figuring out what information and tools to provide and in what formats/layouts.

    I hope this helps. It probably makes the challenge much bigger than you initially imagined. But this is the honest answer about redesigning your intranet homepage properly. Good luck and do let me know if you have any other questions!

    Reply

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