The designs of intranets are often influenced by what we see on the web, after all we use the same technologies to display the content to our users. That being said, intranet design is subtly different to design for the web. In this blog I’m going to explain the top 6 design trends I see when delivering intranets to customers. Should you want more, you can see loads of examples of intranet designs by coming along to one of our free intranet showcase events we run across the country.
Before I begin to discuss how the design of intranets are changing, I wanted to highlight some of the fundamental differences between website and intranet design.
Website design tends to be scripted to lead the user in the direction the company wants to take them. Getting them to find out information about their products, their company or to tempt them into buying their latest widget. Intranets can’t be as scripted, they may promote content that they feel is relevant based on known interests, the department someone belongs to or even their physical location but this can’t get in the way of the other content that is available. Most people visit intranets to get stuff done, most people visit websites to understand more, and herein lies the difference.
Because of this, intranet design shies away from the big promotional banners and full screen hero imagery, instead focusing on displaying content in a way that it can be easily consumed.
Intranet trends don’t always mirror those on the web. I want to look now at 6 design trends that are becoming popular on intranets.
1) Long scrolling content
One of the knock on effects of greater mobile adoption is that employees accessing the intranet are more inclined to scroll. We’ve move on from ‘above the fold’ design and now intranet pages take up much more vertical room. After all, above the fold on a mobile and above the fold on a widescreen laptop are two totally different things.
2) Clear, simple interface
Again, led partly by the growing influence of mobile, intranet designs tend to have a clear, simple interface. This is content that is nicely spaced from each other, giving mobile users big finger sized buttons to click on or links to follow. The temptation seems to be that on an intranet with more content than the national archive to cram it all into as little space as possible. Thankfully, intranet designers are realising that throwing mud on a wall and getting users to pick out the stones isn’t the best way for people to find content.
3) Flat design
Flat design has dominated websites and the web experience for a while, more and more intranets are shifting towards this design style. There is a great website that highlights the differences between flat design and realistic design that came before. http://www.flatvsrealism.com/
4) Material design
One of the problems with flat design is that sometimes it looks, well – dull. Material design falls somewhere between flat design and realism (making design mimic how it would look in real life). Used in intranet design it helps you focus the user’s attention on what’s important. Creating shadows on page items will make them more prominent from the background, same applies for buttons. Material design uses the concept of layering to use space on the page effectively.
5) Greater variance in typography
Gone are the days where Arial or Verdana were the fonts of choice for intranet designs. With web fonts you can be as funky as you like with the font that you choose. Intranet users tend to view designs using those traditional fonts as boring and old, preferring instead fonts like Open Sans or Montserrat that are seen as new and funky. This preference reflects the experiences that people have online as they become used to seeing a variation in fonts when browsing the web
6) More imagery less text
Following on from the theme of a clear, simple interface the last trend I want to highlight is the use of imagery. On the whole intranet designs are devoting more and more space to imagery at the expense of text. Compared to websites, intranets have always contained less text descriptions but images are becoming more and more prominent – especially in content that lends itself well to this, such as news stories etc.
It’s not just any old images that are being used, people are being selective and choosing imagery that reflects their organisation. As everyone with a smartphone now has access to a digital camera images of real life events are getting easier to use and significantly more engaging that stock photography.
These design trends reflect the way that staff engage with the intranet. Let me know through the comments below if you have taken steps to actively incorporate any of these trends into the design of your intranet. If this has captured your attention you can see some great examples of what other organisation’s intranets look like by attending one of our free intranet showcase events that run across the country.