Why reinvent the wheel when you can steal from others?
The best intranets have superb executive sponsorship – usually the President or CEO or someone in the C-Suite – and going hand-in-hand with executive sponsorship, the requisite funding. Governance is also critical, as is content because as they say, content is king (still).
However a great intranet begins with planning: if you don’t have a plan, the intranet will suffer, from design to information architecture to the end content. Intranets are especially known for spiraling out of control with hundreds if not thousands of “micro-sites” due to lack of governance and standards. The poor intranet manager is often just a glorified web publisher who often has little real authority, with no governance and the necessary supporting policies to enforce best practices, and consistency of content and design. Consequently, the site is a hodgepodge of materials without a plan to support and standardize what, where and how information is available.
Aside from content and planning, I also evaluate and plan intranets based on search, innovation, social media, usability, and design: Some basic criteria that we at Prescient Digital Media recommend:
- Content: needs to be current and frequently updated to be considered trustworthy. It should be written for the web, and be regularly reviewed or deleted.
- Planning: strategic directives, measurable KPIs, well-documented governance, and all the necessary policies including content management.
- Design: consistency is vital – set and follow standards and guidelines. If you find microsites popping up using every colour scheme imaginable, your site loses credibility.
- Usability: all intranets should have a sitemap, breadcrumbs (path trail), a good search engine and a taxonomy (managed term store) that is applied to all content.
- Layout: scrolling should be kept to a minimum and white space should be part of the design, not an indicator that you ran out of content.
- Tools and Innovation: a good search engine that provides forgiveness for misspelling is but one critical necessity. Consider collaboration tools like wikis, communication innovations like blogs, and applications like calculators. But the big one: online forms. The best are forms that can be completed and submitted online.
If you don’t have the experience in planning and designing an intranet, and don’t have the funding to hire an intranet consultant, then definitely think about attending one of the upcoming and leading intranet events:
- IntraTeam – February 24 – 26, Copenhagen, Denmark
- The Intranet Global Forum – June 9 – 10, Los Angeles, USA
Also try reading some of the leading blogs (in addition to this one) on intranets: