Employees demand a clean home page, no scrolling

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(SAN ANTONIO, TX) Your employees demand a clean, white home page, with absolutely no scrolling. This is a fact, supported by dozens of employee focus groups, at dozens of leading, and medium size organizations in North America.

I’ve heard the argument too many times, by too many pundits and design and usability experts, that there is nothing wrong with a scrolling home page. Among the many intranet design fallacies:

  • Information scent is too important
  • It is always better to provide more information than less
  • If employees want more information then a little information is a good option to have
  • Most websites have scrolling home pages, and are very successful
  • If a newspaper website can have a scrolling home page, then an intranet can have it

Let me state unequivocally that my assertion is absolutely correct, in North America. If your organization has a majority of employees that want a scrolling home page, you’re not only in the minority, you may be unique. However, although my research in Europe and other geographies is more limited, I would be shocked to learn that employees in France, Germany or New Zealand vastly differ in their basic information and knowledge retrieval needs (separate of content and culture itself) than those in the United States (although my company, Prescient Digital Media, has a number of clients in France, and they don’t want a scrolling home page).

To this end, I admit my assertion may not be absolutely correct in other jurisdictions, but again, I’d wager a year’s salary that it often is true: the vast majority of knowledge workers have a different expectation of the intranet than the corporate website, and desire no scrolling on the home page.

I conducted employee research – employee focus groups, surveys & card sorting – with three leading organizations in the U.S. last week, all with a combined total of close to 100,000 employees with employee intranet access. The one common and over-arching conclusion is that employees expect a very simple, uncluttered home page that has about half as many links as most intranet home pages feature today. Additionally, and very specifically, employees do not want a ‘fold’ on the home page: absolutely no scrolling.

Note that I am solely discussing the intranet home page. After the home page, employees don’t mind scrolling as much, particularly if it’s the content they are looking for. This argument, however, only applies to the home page, and some of the major channel / section pages.

Is the “no scrolling” phenomena universal? Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some employees, particularly in IT and communications – power intranet users – don’t mind scrolling at all. In fact, I myself don’t at all mind scrolling on a home page. But I’m an exception to the rule, as are most power users (who typically represent less than 4% of the user population). In fact, I conducted an intranet user focus group last week comprised entirely of IT staff, eight employees in all, and their response to intranet home page scrolling was unanimous and definitive: ensure there is absolutely no scrolling on the intranet home page. So in fact, the exceptions to the rule are few and far between.

Most employees want to find information to do their jobs as quickly as possible, and don’t have time to riffle through a busy home page. Many are content to glance at the home page, and then move onto the task at hand (query the phone directory, retrieve a policy, check their benefits statement, or read the lunch menu). It’s a glance, and the glance is incredibly important to understand: if you have information below the fold, it will be missed 95% of the time, or more often. Power users will scroll down below the fold, the vast majority will not scroll. In fact, what’s more important, employees become frustrated with the home page if they know there is information below the fold, but believe they don’t have time to scroll down.

I’ve tested employee reactions to intranet design in dozens of focus groups: intranet users become frustrated and anxious about information that they cannot discern at a glance. Remember, a browser is not a newspaper (although there’s a reason why tabloid style newspapers are taking over that industry) nor is the intranet a public website. Employees want to find work-related information as quickly as possible, it’s a completely different mindset and motivation than a newspaper or news website (and many other formats as well).

Here are eight invaluable lessons on intranet design that are worth its’ weight in platinum for intranet designers, managers and consultants:

  • Intranet design must be driven by business need, not creative whim.
  • An intranet is not a website! Let me repeat: an intranet is not a website!
  • Speed kills on roads; lack of speed kills on the intranet.
  • Follow a design process that includes thorough input by management & employees, but design by committee leads to certain death.
  • Soft colors are appreciated; darker, bolder colors such as dark red and black should be used with extreme prejudice.
  • Employees love employee photos, not clip art (individual photos, team photos, event photos).
  • White space is good.
  • Less links, not more.

Most employees demand a clean, uncluttered home page, with no scrolling. Design with the majority in mind, not based on your personal preferences, or those of the clear minority.


Toby Ward is the CEO of Prescient Digital Media, an intranet consulting firm that has worked on more than 100 intranets in North America and Europe. Download and read Prescient’s white paper The Social Intranet: Social Intranet Success Matrix or subscribe (free) to the Intranet Insight newsletter.

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  2. Carroll B. Merriman

    This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  3. Jason Rhoads

    I can see how that would be aggravating for many employees. A homepage of 10 quick links and a search bar would solve a lot of problems.