Company intranets are often talked about in hushed tones – not like an embarrassing relative at family gatherings – when compared to external websites.
But the dawn of the intranet revolution is upon us. Companies are starting to understand the importance of this medium, particularly in terms of collaboration and operating as a social hub for business.
So what are the main considerations for intranet development in 2015?
The right look – and feel
Content has tended to dictate intranet development in the past, leaving user experience a distant runner-up.
Why? Internally facing platforms tend to have been produced by technical teams – individuals with a deep understanding of the technology but perhaps lacking in design and usability skills.
Time though are changing. User demands are increasing. They expect certain standards from a digital platform – meaning that creating a good user experience is no longer optional.
So how do you create an intranet that screams usability?
Lets keep it simple. You may think you are aware of how your intranet is being used but have you conducted an in-depth audit?
Focus groups, user experience trials and, more recently, eye movement tests provide excellent feedback on how users are interacting with an intranet and where positive changes can be made.
In short, you need to be aware of where you are before knowing what you can achieve.
Ever since Steve Jobs uttered the classic intuitive interface phrase, it has become a buzz word for usability. In fact, such is the popularity of the word ‘intuitive’ that it has become almost a punch line associated with digital projects.
The golden rule here is to ensure your intranet site as easy to use as humanly possible.
There should be clear pathways to the information that people need.
The more comfortable people feel with an interface the more they will want to use it.
The way we access websites – both internal and external – is evolving.
The days of being tied to a desktop computer are long gone. People don’t think twice about accessing Yammer on their smartphone or participating in social discussions on their tablet.
The lines between professional and personal continue to blur – and expectations of online platforms are raising all of the time.
However there are challenges to consider.
Should all your content to be available on a mobile device or be selective in what the user can access?
Do you take an app-based approach or do you design a responsive site ensuring your content fits to the screen it is being viewed upon?
For intranet sites I would always tend to lead with the latter but whatever route you decide, mobile needs to be at the forefront of future planning.
We spend so much time at work and yet the dispersed nature of working in 2015 can seem an almost impossible task.
However there is a clear desire for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and the obvious benefits such an approach brings.
The likes of Yammer, Jive and, to a certain extent, Sharepoint provide a mechanism to bring staff closer together by networking on the company intranet.
Think about how your colleagues are communicating. Can you bring them closer together through the inclusion of a social function to your company intranet?
Overall though a subtle shift in mindset is required.
The fundamental question is not “Will the face of our intranet change?” but rather “What will it change into?”