Intranet Homepage Advice from Top Designers

September 23, 2015
Robin Dominik Havre
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If you want to get the most out of all of this effort you’re putting into your intranet, the intranet homepage must be irresistible.

You know there’s a lot to fit in, but you don’t want to over-complicate things at the same time. In a nutshell, you need to strike the right balance of relevant features your employees will actually use while observing the very best usability practices to get a solid user experience.

How do you do it successfully? A great place to start is by reading this quick post.

1. Start with simplicity

The New Intranet blog often advocates the idea of simplicity because we’ve seen the magic it works time and time again.

So, before we look at the must-have features, begin by committing your intranet homepage to being a streamlined, uncluttered and simple place to be.

As ever, it’s likely the various departments will all want their piece of the business represented on the homepage. So, your commitment to simplicity may involve turning a few people down, or telling them “later”.

Start with simplicity and, once we’ve looked at some of the key features and why they’re important, we can return to this concept to ensure it’s been upheld throughout the drafting process.

Question to ask yourself?: If I include X, Y or Z feature on the homepage, am I breaking my commitment to simplicity?

2. Navigation

How you implement a menu system depends on your intranet. It depends on the size of your company and how much content you’ll have. But one thing that’s universal is that your menu system must be as streamlined as possible.

For example, when you’re deciding on menu categories for different information types, don’t break things down into very granular subjects to make them “more clearly separated”. If two things are in a similar subject, one menu option is better that two.

Another design principle we use is that of your intranet being “one click away”. That being true, make sure the most important menu options are available on the second click.

Layout is another important aspect of your navigation. Multiple tests using eye-scanning tools (such as the one we show here) illustrate that people tend to skim over webpages with their eyes following an F-shaped pattern. This is important to navigation, because it gives you an idea of where to put the most useful information on the homepage.

For an example, and to take this to an extreme, you wouldn’t put the most critical information in the far bottom right-hand side corner of the intranet homepage. The top left-hand side is much more likely to get noticed quickly.

Put your most important information on the top left-hand corner and avoid, multiple-tier drop down menu systems. For mobile, a responsive design should reflect this, putting important features and info at the top.

Question to ask yourself?: Have I correctly prioritised my most important information so it gets noticed easily?

3. A robust search feature

There was a time when onsite search features were beyond useless, typically not even worth trying. These days, search technology has improved and there’s no reason not to have a search feature in your homepage, especially considering the results it can pull in.

Whether you use some kind of tagging or other information organising system, ensure content is created with a view to complement the search feature.

If people can find what they’re looking for easily, they’re significantly more likely to return. So don’t neglect this homepage edition. If you’re having trouble, instead of just omitting a search tool from the homepage, check out this excellent report from Nielsen Norman Group.

It’s a paid publication, but a small investment that will ensure maximum returns from your intranet.

Question to ask yourself?: Have I included a search feature and, if so, is my content optimised to work with it?

4. Recent activity

In website design, it’s common for visitors to click the “blog” menu for a company website. Many of these clicks are people that want to read the blog, but most of them are because they want to know if someone’s home, and recent content activity shows them that’s the case and that it’s worth sticking around.

The same holds true for your intranet. Examples of features you can include that show recent activity are:

  • A news feed that automatically puts the latest news article to the top
  • Dates on news, comments and other content so people can see everything’s recent
  • An activity feed of employees making content contributions, comments, survey participation and other factors that help build social proof

As a bonus tip, for the news section, ensure you include a “Featured Article” at the top of the list. If one story is particularly important or proves popular, it should be listed in higher priority for people to see. This move boosts your engagement results.

Question to ask yourself?: If I look at this intranet homepage, is it immediately obvious that people have been using it recently?

5. Collaboration

When your employees can more easily contact one another, good things tend to happen. Projects get completed on time, ideas are generated and communication is improved overall. As we’ve spoken about in the past (for example this article on intranets boosting productivity), this kind of collaboration makes a difference.

Consequently, this idea should be incorporated into your homepage. Ways you can include collaboration are:

  • The all-important employee directory so people can easily find and contact colleagues
  • Submission area for intranet feedback, ideas and contributions
  • A list of any team organising systems you might use such as Asana or Slack

Which of these you choose again, will depend on your business, although the employee directory is universally beneficial. The important thing is, you’ve got the necessary means to collaborate clearly listed on the homepage.

Question to ask yourself?: Have I included all the necessary ways my teams collaborate without over complicating matters?

6. Branding and company culture

Boosting your internal branding is an important component of a successful intranet.

That means your company logo should be prominently displayed somewhere at the top of the page, your tagline should be there too and ideally, your company colours should be used in the homepage design.

If you have a company motto, mission or some kind of promoted cultural component as part of your internal communications plan, it should be backed up by your intranet homepage.

Make sure company culture doesn’t get lost when deploying your intranet.

Question to ask yourself?: Do I have a company culture or mission and if so, is this branding and message included on my intranet homepage?

7. Getting the copy right

Compelling copy is critical to get people engaging with webpages, and it’s important for your intranet, too. Words that explain the benefit immediately and clearly are significantly more likely to get people engaging with your homepage..

When you write the headers, subheaders, and even article descriptions in your news content, always keep this at the forefront of your mind and ensure the benefit these words describe is immediately clear to company employees.

If it helps, take a moment to brainstorm the benefits of your intranet as a series of key points you should include in the copy.

And remember, now that you’ve got the key features and aspects all drafted out, return back to the idea of simplicity and make sure you’ve stuck to that commitment.

Question to ask yourself?: Have I used benefit-orientated copy that convinces people this homepage is worth viewing, reading and interacting with?

Over to you…

Got any intranet homepage tips or questions of your own? Don’t keep them to yourself. Let us know in the comments section below.

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Robin Dominik Havre

Robin is the CEO of New Intranet. He's helped many companies deploy successful mobile intranets that are easy to use and specially designed for employees not working in front of a computer. The goal of this blog is to provide research-backed intranet and internal communications advice for more successful HR strategies.

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