The intranet is not a website; a social intranet is even more alien to its Web cousin.
On the Web there’s an emphasis on entertainment, search engine optimization, and sales conversion. None of which is important on the intranet. Intranet design is not Web design.
Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between design, and other elements of an intranet. Content itself is not part of design, nor is information architecture or the core function of the site (including navigation and the applications). Design includes the presentation of that content, and the color and images applied to that content, information architecture, etc. (User experience however incorporates all of the above including navigation and information architecture).
Leaving an intranet design to the whim of a designer, a creative agency or any individual not working from a sound blueprint represents poor judgment, management, and is a recipe for disaster.
The process for arriving at the stage where a designer applies color and images to a design concept is one that should be taken seriously, and if done properly, may take a number of weeks. This process is the underlying foundation of a successful intranet design, one that follows sound business process, and incorporates business AND user requirements.
Sound intranet design follows a process that incorporates:
1- Business requirements (as expressed by management)
2- User requirements (as expressed by employees)
3- Strategic & functional planning
5- Best practices & usability
The principal problem of design, notwithstanding the commoditization and commercialization of web design, is that design by itself is entirely subjective: one opinion versus another. A terrible design may inhibit or hinder usability and adoption, but a good design doesn’t necessarily drive business success. In fact, it doesn’t matter how ‘great’ the design some will always hate it, and some will always love it. For those few that have commented that your intranet design sucks, there are likely those that love it.
Successful intranet design transcends commodity design, and incorporates the wants and needs of senior management, middle management, and frontline employees; it supports speedy content retrieval, ease-of-use, and knowledge management. Although the real value of an intranet is its content (and tools), supported by a sound plan and governance model (further supported by information), design lends aesthetic value to the intranet and its end content.
With end content in mind, the design itself is only worth up to 10% of the total value of an intranet, but it does have the power to turn away employees who may judge the proverbial book by its cover, and rely on other channels to find what they need to do their jobs. Sound intranet design helps employees find what they want, and ensures they keep coming back.