How does Windows 8 influence intranet design?

by Martyn Green on August 14, 2013

When a client told me they wanted their site to be designed in the format of Windows 8, I found myself faced with a fresh challenge. I thought I’d give my observations on working with this type of layout and how this design can affect the way your site is structured.

windows 8From a visual perspective, the panels display both static and dynamic content, which is not only a bit different but also looks fresh and new.

Generally speaking, 50% of intranet users don’t leave their homepage, but with Windows 8, the homepage essentially acts as a navigation bar leading to other content. Clicking on a panel won’t take you straight to the content you need, but direct you to an area where you can access it. If you’re using a tablet or a phone, this is probably expected behaviour, but on a PC it can be a little frustrating having to click several times to get to the information that you want.

Usability expert Jacob Nielsen has criticised Windows 8 in that it “reduces discoverability”. It’s true to say that unless icons are obvious there is some guesswork as to which content you’re accessing.

As there’s no navigation bar at the top of the home page there is the question of how you return to this page once you have navigated to other content. Is it easy to do? Will this frustrate users?

On the plus side, having fewer items on the page means it’s far easier to digest and there’s no danger of the user being overwhelmed by content. This also makes it great from an accessibility perspective.

If you’re looking for a visually appealing site that provides sign posts to your content, then this layout may well work for you. However, if your staff want to get the information they need direct from their homepage, Windows 8 is probably not the best option.

Topics: 4. Form

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