What makes the UX design process for Intranets different to considerations required for public facing websites?

Gathering data

Firstly, conducting a survey to get user recommendations for improvement is easier!

This is a website that many users will use daily, so users have high value feedback to provide.

Important questions to ask include

  • What are your biggest frustrations with the existing site?
  • What areas do you access the most and how frequently?
  • What new features would you like to have?

It’s useful to get participants to provide ratings for quick qualitative analysis, but also to provide them with the option to comment.

The best scenario in my opinion is when a UX designer has the survey results as early as possible.

Conducting research

It’s much more difficult to find examples of intranets online to take inspiration from.

Luckily there are some good resources online, like Neilson Norman’s research on Intranet best practices.

Governance

Intranets are prone to growing quickly and freely … which can easily lead to one big confusing mess. It doesn’t matter how good the Intranet UX is, if it’s not governed properly it will become difficult to find things.

It is extremely important that rules around governance are clearly defined and communicated to the appropriate parties. All content administrators need to be given regular training on how to adhere to best practices on things like naming conventions and document versioning.

User groups

User groups can include regular 9-5ers which use the intranet frequently.

It is also important to find out the frequency of staff turnover, temp or contract workers, and how often staff change roles. A high number of new or temporary users can be used to justify UX decisions when rationalising your design.

It is also important to find out who is administering content and what degree of control these various user groups have.

Find out where users are accessing the intranet (at home?), how often they access it (ie: 85% use every day), on what devices or browsers it is accessed upon, and what the typical technical experience of the average user is.

Finally, accessibility considerations are always important, even on an intranet. 1 in 5 people on average have a disability whether it’s colour blindness or inability to use a mouse.

User tasks and goals

Once the user groups are established, it is important to understand what are the goals of each user group are. What are the key tasks that the different user groups are attempting to accomplish?

Some examples of goals or tasks include:

  • Having a central repository for documents
  • Having up to date Information about organisation structure
  • Finding contact information easily
  • Accessing links to different applications or systems
  • Accessing important links to resources or other websites
  • Knowledge sharing/collaboration across levels within the organisations

It’s useful to use your survey results to understand what areas are being accessed most frequently within the intranet. On a recent project I worked on, these were (in order of most to least frequent):

News, Timesheet, Staff Member Search, Documents, Application Links, Job Opportunities, Templates for documents, Information about different departments within the organisation.

User Frustrations

Aside from user goals, it is helpful to identify what frustrations users currently experience with the existing intranet. Once again this information is best gathered from a survey. Common examples include:

  • It is difficult to find things, not where you expect.

Areas for improvement might include better search functionality, more intuitive IA, revised intranet governance policy and process for managing and reviewing content

  • It is difficult for new users coming in

In addition to the improvements outlined above, providing an appropriate induction as well as ongoing support is important. Maintaining similar structures, policies and rules around documentation and department sections within the intranet is also helpful for employees working in or moving into different roles

Also, explore tasks which might be unique to different user groups. For example:

New / contract staff

  • Need to be able to come in and get an understanding of where content is located and how the IA is structured
  • Needs to be easy to find new staff contact information and understand their roles and where they sit within the organisation
  • Staff need to access their sites easily and have an understanding of what type of documents and where to find documents within these sites.

Content administrators

  • Need to understand how site is structured and where different types of documents sit
  • Understand versioning of documents so these don’t become outdated
  • Know how documents can be added to make them easy to find. For example, how to add them so they are easy to locate via search, consistent naming conventions
  • Develop a strategy for how content is migrated over from the old Intranet and avoiding content and information structure from becoming messy.
  • Provide regular training on how to create accessible content

 

Information Architecture

Information Architecture is a big one, and is often an area where it can be difficult to find neutral terminology to use, or to rejig things which have been one way for a long time.

I believe it is important to build trust and confidence in your opinion before reworking their IA. It’s a good idea to explain the concepts around best practice for IA and to allow them time to go away and reconsider their current IA.

Question their use of terminology and explain how or why it doesn’t feel intuitive to a ‘naive’ user such as yourself.

 

UX considerations for Intranet design Part II coming soon.

This will explore topics including:

  • The organisation’s vision for the project
  • Identifying potential pitfalls
  • Homepage, landing page and internal page features