How employees use an intranet

I surveyed a number of employees (aka intranet users) in my workplace and observed them using the intranet site. From this, I’ve complied my top 5 learnings and how these learnings can help determine the design and content of an intranet site.

Users go to the intranet to complete a task

Users typically open the intranet, complete a task then get on with their job. Examples of a task in this context may include looking up contact information, locating a policy or submitting a form. When designing site navigation, use familiar terminology and calls to action, to direct users to content, forms and tools. Consider the needs of your users first and this will help determine what content and functionality is required.

Users most often use the intranet for finding contact information

If your intranet does only one thing, make sure it provides corporate contact information. This is the most common use of the intranet. At a minimum, this should include the name, phone number and email address for all employees working in the organisation. Users should also be able to find contact information for corporate services such at IT, HR, payroll, communications, facilities etc.

Users tend to browse rather than search for content

When looking to complete a task, users tend to favour browsing the site instead of searching. This maybe due to poor experiences using search engines or the user not quite knowing the correct query to enter. Either way, content, forms and tools should be easy to find by both browsing and searching, to suit the different methods of discovery.

Users go to the intranet to launch websites and applications

The intranet is the first site users see when they open their web browser, therefore they use it as a launching pad to access the information and services they need to do their job. A list of links to commonly used websites and applications is a simple yet useful inclusion for any intranet site.

Users rely on email rather than the intranet for corporate news

Employees rank email as the main channel for staying informed of corporate announcements and news. Reading front page news on the intranet didn’t rank as a common task for the users I spoke to. Rather they may look at the news in passing when using the intranet. Content managers can cross-post corporate email communications and source less prominent news items, as a means of creating interest, value and a point of difference.