Recently, we hosted a webinar presented by Elizabeth Marsh, Research Director at Digital Workplace Group. The webinar was titled “30+ Lessons from 12 Leading Intranet Homepages.” A replay of the webinar is now available for viewing.
It was fascinating to see how leading organizations organize their intranet homepages. From the main navigation menu to social activity feeds to personalized links, there were lots of interesting ideas to consider.
In this post, I'll summarize the key trends Elizabeth spotted across these twelve leading intranet homepages:
1) Modern Design
Modern intranets have boxy and clean design. Boxy designs render icons, sections and widgets within squares and rectangles, rather than shapes with rounded edges. Sites with clean design include well-placed imagery, along with adequate spacing between elements.
Elizabeth spoke about the homepage of American Express’ intranet, which they call "The Square":
In addition to a boxy and clean design, American Express creates a consumer-like appeal to the homepage. They aim to provide interesting infographics, captivating images and catchy headlines to their visitors.
2) News Carousels
While web marketers, SEO's and web designers debate about homepage sliders (note: this Search Engine Land article says they’re bad for SEO), news carousels are in vogue on leading intranet homepages.
For one, intranet users click on these carousels a lot. When they arrive on the intranet homepage, it’s often the first place they check. If intranet managers continue to make this real estate useful and timely, carousels will continue to stay in vogue. Secondly, the SEO factor is likely a non-starter for intranet managers, since intranets reside behind a firewall.
Among the many news carousels that Elizabeth showed, an example from Sprint was the most noteworthy:
Elizabeth noted that research and consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group called Sprint's news carousel "nearly flawless."
3) Social Streams
Social streams can encourage collaboration on the intranet: employees share news and updates, while engaging via likes, comments and more. For Elizabeth, it's essential for a social stream to not only provide a feed of posts, but also enable users to engage around those posts.
To encourage employee discovery and connections across the organization, it's important for users to maintain a completed profile. On the Electrolux intranet, users can click a button to edit their profile directly from the social stream:
Elizabeth commended Genentech for incorporating comments and ratings alongside the content that's published:
According to research conducted by Digital Workplace Group, 59% of their members utilize personalization on their intranets. Employees visiting their intranet have a specific need to address or a particular question to answer. An experience personalized to visitors creates a higher likelihood that they’ll have that need addressed.
Elizabeth showed a number of examples of intranet personalization:
- A listing of events, personalized to the geographic location of the employee
- A widget showing the employee’s progress in their company's Learning Management System (LMS)
- A sidebar showing personalized news articles, with the option of adding your own links
Perhaps the most interesting example comes from EY, who provides a "What's Due From You" widget:
So while you're having your needs addressed, a fair trade is made: the organization reminds you what it needs from you.
5) App-like Visual Design for Task Lists
As smartphone users, we’re familiar with app stores, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. When I accessed Apple's App Store from my iPhone, I was presented with this set of featured apps:
Intranet applications and tasks are now presented in this same design pattern, as it’s something we’re accustomed to. For Elizabeth, a shining example was the "My Tools" area of American Express' intranet homepage.
The following tools are presented in an app-like manner:
Tech Concierge (* - this could be a neat app!)
6) Balancing News Content with Productivity Tools
An intranet needs to balance the following needs:
Employee’s need: Help me understand what's new, what's happening and what I need to know.
Organization’s need: Help employees be more productive.
While news, announcements, awards and press mentions tends to be a focal point of an intranet homepage, organizations also need to provide links to productivity tools that help employees get things done.
RELATED White Paper: How to Select a CMS for Your Intranet
Coca-Cola Enterprises provides a set of Quick Links, organized by when employees should be doing particular tasks:
Mayo Clinic provides a real-time status dashboard to help employees see what’s happening in clinical environments:
7) Search Scoping
When employees know where a resource resides, search scoping narrows the search to a particular repository or topic area. For instance, EY provides a "SharePoint Search," which limits search results to content stored in their SharePoint repository. If you're after a specific document in SharePoint, then limiting your search scope helps you find that document faster.
Mayo Clinic took a different approach on their intranet. Instead of scoping by repository, they provide search scoping based on common categories users search on:
8) User Research and User Personas
Marketers and product managers aren't the only groups that leverage user personas to build experiences: intranet managers use them as well. For intranet managers, it's useful to map out the different user personas who visit the site, then craft experiences for each one.
Mayo Clinic embarked on an ambitious project to create 40 user personas. These personas were used to build out the intranet content and experience, and was applied to broader areas of the company, including information tools and applications.
Mayo Clinic found it useful to conduct face-to-face interviews to inform their persona research. And the personas are a living entity, constantly updated with the results from ongoing user research. For more information on the persona project, have a look at this SlideShare:
Mayo Clinic's Persona Project from Gianna Pfister-LaPin
Bonus Item: Neat Things Spotted on Intranet Homepages
Some neat things I noticed about company intranets:
The name of Genentech's intranet is "gWiz." Love it!
For user profiles, EY provides a profile strength indicator, a la the profile indicator on LinkedIn.
IKEA styled their "Like" button to match one of their brand symbols: a heart with two arms raised. It’s creative and reinforces the brand, too.
The Webinar Presentation
Here's the slide deck from Elizabeth's presentation. Thanks for a great webinar, Elizabeth!
Lessons from Leading Intranet Homepages from DNN