Intranet Design Annual 2018: Review Part 1

by | Feb 13, 2018 | Intranets, Reviews

The 2018 edition of the Intranet Design Annual from the Neilsen Norman Group arrived on my desktop several weeks ago but clients have rather got in the way of me writing a review. In addition, at 470 pages in length the report has taken a while to read through. This year I’m going to write two reviews, covering the themes and trends section in Part 1 and then the case studies in Part 2.

The Executive Summary section opens with this statement
“Simplification is the overarching theme for this year’s winning intranets. These teams have mastered the skill of ignoring the unnecessary and focusing on goals and needs. They simplified their processes, content, and tools to produce their great designs.”

The authors, Kara Pernice, Amy Schade, and Patty Caya, then go on to consider, with considerable insight, the propensity of organisations to make content contribution far too much of a challenge.

“All individual employees and teams need to create pages that let them share information with one another. When this isn’t possible or easy on the corporate intranet, teams look elsewhere, including to tools outside the intranet, siloed collaborative or team spaces, or (in a total rogue move) to a separate intranet they design themselves.”

In my opinion this issue of workarounds is now becoming a major challenge as the number of social network platforms increases. With employees using these on a regular basis why should they then have to cope with a complex template to contribute to the corporate intranet. It seems from the case studies that decentralised content contribution is the preferred strategy and that requires a careful consideration of what the contributor interface should be.

Another important issue the authors raise is the extent to which the intranet uses customized elements, especially in the case of SharePoint-based intranets. This is a running theme through the case studies where there is a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Among the other trends noted in the 30 page introduction are the re-emergence of breadcrumb trails, increased use of fat footers and a push back on ubiquitous mobile delivery. It is now a case of Mobile Second.

I have two disappointments about this otherwise very valuable overview section. The first is that there is no specific reference to search implementation on intranets, just a couple of passing references. Now I know that I am biased in my support for effective search, but my task (and that of other intranet consultants) in convincing clients that search and navigation are interlinked is made much more difficult when the Nielsen Norman Group ignores the topic. My second disappointment lies with the final four- page section on intranet design good practice. There is a list of 24 bullet points on best practice elements and then a further fourteen longer text contributions in a somewhat random order, one with seven more bullet points. Then tucked away on p455 are some of the reasons why intranets that were submitted failed to make the selection, which reinforce comments made over 400 pages earlier. I don’t see the logic in that at all.

At $248 for the individual volume and $488 for a group license this report represent excellent value for money. If you pick up just ten good ideas from this 470 page report that works out at $25 each. If your organisation does not regard this as a good investment …….!

Martin White