Intranet Usability

18 February 2009
Ben Logan

Author: Ben Logan

Passionate about improving services and experiences for the people that use them.

A badly organised Intranet can cost your business a lot of money in time wasted by employees trying to achieve certain tasks. We look at some of the ways this can be improved in this article.

Built from the inside

Intranets are typically organised by departmental names and it is important to put yourself in the mindset of a new starter at the company. Would you be able to navigate to a particular site or complete a task if you did not know the company structure or naming conventions used?

What are some of the characteristics of Intranet users?

We have highlighted a few characteristics of Intranet users:

  • Often afraid to ask a colleague where content is for fear of looking silly
  • Can be disgruntled due to historical decisions that have effected their browsing experience
  • Want to find people or information quickly
  • Want to feel involved and that they can help shape a better Intranet in the future

What are some of the issues faced by Intranet users?

  • Lack of standardised design and templates
  • “Acronym overload” in the companies taxonomy
  • Lack of meta data to correctly structure and tag content
  • Search not returning results expected
  • Lack of staff directory to quickly find people
  • Legacy applications with their own branding
  • No means of two way communication e.g. messaging forums for ideas exchange
  • Navigation is unclear and cluttered
  • Site maps are outdated for large sites
  • Page content is cluttered and takes time to download
  • Tone of voice varies from one department to another
  • Content is duplicated across different departmental sites

What can you do to help increase the Usability of the Intranet?

  • Setup a centralised content team to update the key sites
  • Avoid acronyms and if you have to use them provide an “Acronym glossary” which is maintained in one location
  • Create applications such as a staff directory and make sure useful information is populated
  • Create guidelines on design and best practice and distribute
  • Have a common publishing platform or Content Management System
  • Create some writing guidelines to help with consistent tone of voice
  • Encourage collaboration with applications e.g. Message forums and document repositories
  • Encourage documents to be tagged with Meta data to help internal search systems
  • Try and avoid opening new windows
  • Allow you users to communicate with you by running incentives surveys
  • Incorporate personalisation where you can
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