A well designed corporate intranet helps increase productivity and communication among employees. The process of designing a great intranet starts and ends with the people who use it the most - the users. Reviewing the top intranet designs of 2016, as determined by Nielsen Norman Group's Intranet Design Annual, it's clear that there are common processes, ways of thinking, and visual trends that contribute to a successful intranet design.
Creating an Intranet
When planning or preparing for a new intranet or an intranet redesign, there are plenty of factors to consider. More often than not, trying to simply utilize in-house designers and developers will not be a wise choice. Companies that have successful intranets tend to hire outside agencies or consultants to help with UX design, SharePoint development, content migration, information architecture, intranet governance, etc. To be most effective, an intranet should be tailored as closely to the company as possible. A redesign should not just migrate content by default; it needs to filter out the outdated information and streamline important information, so there is just helpful content without clutter.
Design and User Experience
When redesigning an intranet, a good team will start by investigating what content and features are currently working. The goal of this is to find ways to enhance the user experience, and in turn, improve internal communication and employee engagement. User interviews, intranet analytics, and emplolyee surveys are all great ways to dive deep into how employees in all roles use and experience the intranet site. With this information, you can understand what information is relevant and important to specific users. One up-and-coming trend is a customizable homepage for each user. Displaying content on the homepage that is targeted to the user's role helps simplify the design and also clearly places the appropriate tools and information at the fingertips of the right people. With a customizable section or homepage, an employee could save frequently visited links or commonly used features to their own view. Another element of this trend is accommodating users who have share characteristics other than their work roles. Some well-designed intranets find ways to accommodate people who have poor vision, disabilities, or even slow internet connections. User experience is an important element of an intranet that needs careful planning and precise execution in order to contribute to an effective intranet.
Collaboration and Communication
An aspect of boosting productivity in a large company is facilitating collaboration and communication. A common trend is to create or implement social media-like aspects as part of an intranet, such as liking and commenting on intranet content. Sharing information and conversations on the company intranet encourages collaboration and user engagement. Yammer is a popular means for corporate social networking that helps connect various individuals across departments and geographic locations. Social engagement and communication on an intranet promotes a sense of inclusivity and community within an organization.
Aesthetic and Navigation trends
There are plenty of aesthetic and navigation trends used throughout successful intranets today. Aesthetically, a more minimalistic and modern approach is favored by the most successful intranet designs. This helps the user navigate through a site easily, thanks to the intuitive design, without clutter or confusion. Site elements that help group information and simplify navigation are also widely popular and adopted by many, because they provide a more intuitive user experience. Responsive design is also used in well-designed intranets, because it helps create a pleasant experience for users when they use the intranet on different devices. Providing similar elements or a similar way to navigate an intranet, despite the difference in devices, promotes an overall better user experience.
At this point in time, these visual and navigation trends are widely used, but they may not be most beneficial to your company. Certain design best practices could be better off disregarded, if they do not help meet the unique requirements of the organization. The most important intranet design trends will not change is the importance of creating an intranet that fulfills the specific needs of your company.
Planning to redesign your intranet? Talk to one of our SharePoint experts today to learn more about how to prepare for an intranet redesign.