When you move into a house and start putting in furniture, you don’t know if the way you’ve arranged each room works until you actually start using it. It may look great with funky sofas and tables, but after a few months those sofas may not offer the comfort you had hoped for.
It’s no different for intranets, you’ll only get a true idea of what works for your users once it’s actually being used by them.
When you’re considering your intranet’s design, I wouldn't expect you to design the site yourself, but what I’d suggest is you get a good understanding of what really works.
Whether you go for an agency or your supplier’s in-house design team, there are three things you should always bear in mind.
1. Write a creative brief
A creative brief is essential to ensure the designer is fully aware of what your expectations are for the project. I always say that a design is only ever as good as the brief. A good designer will discuss what is achievable and will work with you to create a workable site based on your requirements.
Make sure you include:
- Design examples, possibly other sites
- Details of your brand guidelines
- Intranet goals
- Budget and expected timescales
2. Your company’s demographics
Your design should always have the needs of your users at its heart. You need to remember that you are not the audience and understanding what they need is what makes a great design.
As your intranet is an internal tool, you’ll no doubt have a pretty good idea of your organisation’s demographics. Pass this information onto your designer, this will give them the opportunity to research into what appeals to them.
You may, more instance, have a workforce made up predominantly of young women. If this is the case, creating a strong, masculine design will be instantly off-putting.
Unlike your company website, your intranet needs to appeal to a variety of users working in different teams with a variety of requirements. If you focus on just one group you run the risk of alienating the rest of your users.
3. Work around your content
Good content should be at the heart of any intranet, and your design should work around your content, not the other way round. The purpose of an intranet is to make tasks easier for users, and the role of the designer is to ensure the design doesn’t detract from this.
It shouldn’t act as a wall between content from both a visual and accessible perspective.
Around half of your audience will never leave your home page, so focus on making your site as engaging as possible. A good design will aid access to content, so remember, there’s no point in having funky intranet furniture if nobody uses it.