5 ‘must haves’ for intranet usability

13 May 2013

This is a guest blog post by Lisa Pratt, Account Executive at ClerksWell. ClerksWell is an expert in developing intranets focused on user experience and has recently launched EasyShare, a fixed-cost, fully enhanced intranet solution based on SharePoint 2010 and 2013.

User experience imageFrom small organizations to global corporate companies, the website has become a powerful communications tool, enabling engagement with millions of consumers on the World Wide Web. Unfortunately a large majority of organizations are still trying to understand how they can effectively utilize this medium internally to engage their employees.

An organization’s intranet can be a powerful tool which is inexpensive, improves internal communication, increases employee productivity and protects sensitive data. However a lack of focus on usability often undermines the adoption of intranets and provides users with a far lesser experience than they are used to on the web.

A recent Nielsen Norman Group study suggests that intranet processes are not user friendly and have barely improved since 2002, despite design improvements over the years. Jakob Nielsen offers two main reasons: “One, they’ve become too complex, with too many features. Second, too many companies use intranet software right out of the box, rather than customising it for their employees”. A lack of focus on end users and their expectations is leading to intranets at separate ends of the scale, either being over engineered and too complicated or “out of the box” with little consideration of organizational or employee needs.

A great user experience is essential to ensuring intranets boost collaboration, engage employees and increase productivity. ClerksWell has defined our top “5 must haves” for intranet usability:

 5 must haves for intranet usability

  • Define the strategy and business objectives – It is essential to clearly define the business needs and user requirements and communicate these to the key stakeholders whilst maintaining a synergy with the technical parameters. Intranet objectives should be aligned to business objectives right from the beginning, keeping the project focused on delivering value to the business.
  • Create an engaging design – The needs, wants and limitations of end users of a product should be given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.
  • Engage with technical experts – It does not have to be expensive to work with technical and design experts. Their collaboration can increase your overall return on investment. 
  • Keep your intranet up to date – It is critical to keep your intranet up to date with the latest news and legal documentation whilst maintaining an organized intranet. Clear plans should be developed on when content should appear, be updated, taken down and archived.
  • Continual improvement – Deploying an intranet should be seen as the beginning of the project within the organization. It should be continuously reviewed and analysed to identify new opportunities to encourage growth and development and improve engagement.

Intranet users have come to expect the same experience internally as when browsing the web. Failing to meet these expectations can only lead to disengaged employees and unsuccessful intranet projects. A focus on usability is essential to drive adoption and truly see the ROI benefits an effective internal communications tool can provide.

ClerksWell has been developing intranets for over 15 years across organizations of varying sizes and sectors. The key to success in all these projects has been a continued focus on usability, design and placing users at the heart of every decision.

Categorised in: DWG24, Usability & design

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