I recently attended one of our intranet showcases that we were running in London where different designs of intranets were shown and analysed. As an observer it was interesting to me to see individual reactions from the showcase audience to the designs that were being discussed.
We saw some radically different layouts, with different imagery and content. As you would expect some people loved them and others really hated them, and some just couldn’t agree. When one person complained that a design was ‘too busy’ another said that it was giving her all the information she needed.
Investigating this further the tension seemed to stem from when individuals felt disconnected from the content, the design had been created for an audience that had different intranet objectives to them (they were looking to consume news rather than complete a process or find a policy for example).
There were however some clear trends that meant that a design was more popular than others, the most popular designs tended to have the following four design characteristics:
- Increased amount of ‘white space’ or gaps between different page items
- Using web fonts with modern looking typefaces
- Making sensible use of the screen (for both super HD monitors and tiny smart phones)
- Images applicable to the text and wherever possible real photos and not stock images
I suspect that this is a reflection of the designs that people are used to consuming on the internet.
Intranet designers often talk about reducing the ‘marmite effect’ – that is making sure your intranet design is not too radical as to alienate a section of your audience. After all on the intranet your audience is defined, and repelling them with a controversial look and feel may scare them off content that you really want them to engage with.
There is defiantly some truth in this, but that shouldn’t mean that we are left with bland and uninteresting intranets.
An intranet does need to be beautiful, or should I say reflective of your brand or company culture. It also needs to be functional, usable for its intended audience. A good intranet design will display relevant information in an engaging way. There is no universal design, style or layout that will work for everyone, a design needs to reflect the business objectives of the intranet and most importantly the people you are looking to engage.