First, what is an Intranet? It is a private network available to users with login credentials. An intranet can be a simple, internal system for sharing files and information within a closed network – in other words, not available online.
An intranet can also be a private network available through a login on a shared network or online. Intranets are used for human resources, marketing materials, technical resources, project collaboration, and so on.
These intranet systems are often crucial to an organization’s business intelligence, productivity, growth, etc. The UX of these better be dialed in. Sometimes, the UX of an intranet site is more important to the health of an organization than its public facing website.
If you’re unfamiliar with UX, I recommend reading this post first.
UX encompasses the elements of a system (in this case an intranet) which contribute to the user’s perceived value of that system.
- Does it do what they need it to do?
- Is it easy to use?
- Will they want to keep using it?
It’s simple really. Don’t build a clunky, hard-to-use intranet. Here are 5 quick tips for developing a better intranet user experience…
Tip One – Buyer Personas – Know Your Audience
You’re at an advantage when building an intranet. The audience is clearly defined. And it’s important to understand their needs against your desired outcomes.
Try developing Buyer Personas. Understand who they are and what their needs are and you’ll develop a better system.
A simple matrix of user types mapped to their specific needs can be helpful. From there determine if there is overlap in any of those needs. Prioritize those needs to determine how integral they are.
Tip Two – Project Management and Stakeholders – Clearly Define Expectations
If you don’t clearly define scope, expectations, and decision makers, you’ll struggle with this project. A public facing website is usually a driven by the marketing department with input from other departments.
An Intranet has multiple stakeholders. These groups have a specific need or goal in mind for their intranet. So, while the audience is clearly defined, you’ll need to wrangle the stakeholders.
Focus on the needs throughout your organization, but weigh those needs against the needs of the user. Can you accommodate everything within budget and on time? This leads us to tip three…
Tip Three – Budget and Priorities – Everyone Should Know What Phase One Is
An intranet is a living, breathing system for your employees, members, investors, whoever the audience is. You’ll never be “finished” building it. It will continually be enhanced and updated.
The more it gets used the more suggestions will be made and the more bugs will need to be ironed out.
But, what about budget? I have yet to find a company willing to spend an unlimited amount of money on any project. Be realistic. You’re not going to get everything everyone wants in phase one.
Stakeholders will lobby for the features that are important to them. But, if you’ve done a good job with tips one and two above, you know what is a priority now and what needs to wait.
Everyone needs to agree that one person or group has the final say. Clearly define what phase one is and what it is not. If you don’t, you’re dealing with scope creep. And scope creep means more money.
Scope creep also means missing deadlines. Are your deadlines critical? Eliminate anything that gets in the way of meeting these deadlines.
Tip Four – User Interface – Design Still Matters
Does a system walled off from the general public need to look good? Maybe. It should be easy to use. And an interface can make or break a system when it comes to usability.
Think about all the software you use everyday – like the browser you’re using to read this post, or the GPS on your car, or the self-checkout at the grocery store. Some you love and some you hate.
What is it about the ones you hate that makes you hate them? I’ll bet it’s because the software is confusing, difficult to navigate, or you can’t find what you need.
This is usability. Design plays a huge role here. I’m not talking about look and feel as much as I’m referring to simplicity. Color combinations affect readability. Textures and layers can affect load time or distort important visual cues.
This is a system that serves a very specific set of purposes. The interface design of this system should support the user’s ability to easily perform the tasks for which the system was built.
These posts on design might help.
Tip Five – Responsive Design or Mobile App – What about the How???
How will the users access and use the intranet? Unlike a public facing system, you can dictate how the intranet system will be used. If your budget only allows for desktop use, then the choice is clear. Or, is it?
Think about the pitfalls of this decision. Will users simply not use the system because they can’t use it on their tablet or mobile devices? Do you force them to use the system? That’s a UX negative right off the bat.
Build a system they will use…
- Mobile App – The user works remotely with spotty internet access. Or the system relies heavily on the device’s native functionality – camera, GPS, etc. In any of these scenarios, a mobile app is a better choice.
- Responsive Design – The user is mobile but has reliable internet access. The system relies heavily on data contained on the hosting server. These are times when responsive design might be enough.
- Mobile First – The mobile user is so important that you build the intranet using a mobile first approach. Design and build for the mobile user primarily and the desktop user as a backup.
Whose Intranet Is This?
If you build it, they might come and hate it. Build it for them and they will love it!
What do you think, can UX make or break an intranet system? Let me know in the comments below.