Your intranet should maximise efficiency; it helps your employees to fulfil their roles consistently, it enables on-going training, it brings you together as a company reinforcing shared working practices.
Get it wrong and it can impact not only your day to day internal communications but also morale, productivity and potentially a ripple effect beyond your business as staff begin to disengage and disconnect with your goals or vision; ultimately becoming less effective.
Here, FIG’s digital team talk us through some of the do’s and don’ts of engaging, productive and effective intranet design.
Make it your own!
Every organisation works in a different way. Your intranet has to reflect your own business, community and users. Sure, start with an off-the-shelf framework to get an idea of where to begin – but for your intranet to be truly engaging you need to personalise and customise your internal communication platform as much as possible. Blend the visual, technical and cultural aspects of design with your specific business needs.
The first step is to understand your user community and address style / design and functionality to suit. That’s the Who, What, Where, When and How.
Who are your users?
Your intranet has a big job to do – it is the key communications channel for the whole organisation. That means designing and building a model which allows every level of the business to engage and interact.
Your younger employees in particular will be expecting and demanding a platform which is reflective of the high-spec software and mobile interfaces which they use in every-day life. Anything clunky or static will seem old-fashioned.
At the same time you may have some users who are not digitally confident, who do not use forums, document sharing or social media engagement as a matter course and so your design and navigation has to be intuitive and inclusive to them and their needs also.
What are they using it for?
An intranet is many things to many people – document library, learning hub, activity calendar, social forum. Once you’ve considered how they come to you turn your attention to what they see when they get there – your homepage.
Often, in a bid to meet the needs of everyone some intranet homepages become a clutter of generic and inactive company information. As a result, they’re not immediate or individual. Such a cluttered homepage can give the impression that the intranet is not responsive and is out of date. Remember generic information does not necessarily drive completion of specific tasks but helping people do their job better and quicker should be the main objective of your intranet.
Users determine usefulness of content. Take time to really identify what your users want and need to do and how you can build work-centric tools into your overall design.
Effective elements include building in in quick access navigation to key activities, include a prominent search function that works and is intuitive and comprehensive. Develop an information-rich staff directory alongside your corporate business insights and information.
Look to introduce ways that your employees can inform the evolution of the site’s content, or develop a homepage which reflects specific areas of the business. Even better, enable them to personalise their homepage with quick links.
Where & When
Consider where and when your employees will be accessing your intranet. With remote and flexible working on the increase mobile devices are as much part of our working hardware as laptops or a static desktop PC. Make sure your intranet design is mobile compatible – you want the flexibility and geographical reach to be enhanced by your intranet, not restricted.
Similarly be mindful of security settings. If your internet is accessible from non-work locations you may want to consider parameters on access to certain sensitive or confidential areas in public or home environments.
Evolution – not launch and leave…
It’s important to “design in” growth and maturity into your intranet so that it can develop in step with your company. Encouraging elements of interaction and discussion will help maintain and encourage engagement. Engagement enhances immediacy and relevance, and relevance ensures use. The ability to match and integrate changes in business practice with functions on the intranet will ensure that your platform continues to be key part of your employees’ interaction.
Intranet – Think Big – Think Individual
In summary, your intranet design should be underpinned by one central question – how can we help our employees do their jobs better, faster and more productively?
Think big, and think individual and you’ll maximise your investment in time and build stages of intranet design and you won’t just be building a platform but also a productive, engaged community.
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