NNGroup Intranet Design Annual 2019. Part 1 – trends and insights

by | Jan 27, 2019 | Intranets, Reviews

It is January and the annual arrival of 35MB of intranet insights from the Nielsen Norman Group is as welcome as always. The Intranet Design Annual 2019 runs to almost 700 pages, and writing a review is a significant challenge. In 2001 the very first Intranet Design Annual was 111 pages and ten years ago the 2009 edition ran to 478 pages, and as with the 2019 edition the authors were Kara Pernice and Patty Kaya. Since all the reports have included ten profiles it gives a good sense of the increasing sophistication in intranet design and management and the depth of detail needed to surface the range of features on the screen, the variety of content and in the complexity of the software platforms. 

No matter how hard I try to skim-read the Annual I invariably get sidetracked by innovative approaches taken by the ten award winners. The Annual is also too large for a review in just a single blog post. In Part 1 I want to look at the 34 page executive summary that highlights some of the trends evident in the ten intranets included in the report. I will start with the analysis of team size, which has come in for some criticism over the years. In the team size debate there are three important caveats to a mathematical analysis. The first is that in an intranet redesign the team will inevitably be larger than for business-as-usual. The second is that many organisations outsource many of the elements of an intranet redesign so the total effective team size is difficult to define. Kara Pernice and Patty Caya, the report authors, note that it usually takes a team of at least 8-10 people to develop an intranet. In my view this is a function of the tasks that need to be undertaken to a much greater extent than the size of the user base. The third concern I have is that increasingly organisations are engaging with contractors and other ‘associates’, and there are several examples in this year’s edition.

Some of the trends from this year’s award winners include

  • A greater use and corporate visibility of collaboration applications
  • More attention being paid to search, and to employee/expertise search in particular
  • An acceptance that content may need to be delivered in a number of languages
  • Organisational charts are back in fashion
  • A commitment to good quality form design
  • Fat footers to support navigation
  • Careful consideration of how best to integrate the intranet with business applications

There is an equally useful (and much shorter) section on pp 676-678 which sets out some of the reasons why intranets submitted for an award did not make the final selection. Among these reasons are an over-reliance on mega-menus, poor content prioritization and a lack of visual page hierarchy. I also liked the comment that “Responsive” doesn’t mean an intranet is simply “accessible on mobile,” but rather that it is (or should be) “accessible, useful, and usable on mobile.”

If you are already sold on the need to buy the 2019 edition you can order it for $248 and give Part 2 of this review a miss.

Part 2 – Ten profiles

Martin White