While websites and web solutions have rushed along in recent years, intranets have perpetually lagged behind. Rarely given the resources and attention they deserve, intranets have played the part of the poor cousin to leading websites. This is finally changing.
Fueled by trends such as the consumerization of IT, the influence of the tablet, the proliferation of lightweight hosted online tools and an up-skilled design and development community, the gap is finally closing between websites and intranets.
The winners of this year’s Intranet Innovation Awards support this point.
The Intranet Innovation Awards, organized by Step Two Designs, are global awards which celebrate the many ways that intranets deliver value for organizations while directly benefiting staff. Uniquely, they don’t judge intranets as a whole, and instead focus on surfacing great ideas that can be applied to other intranets.
Running for the past seven years, the global judging panel includes recognized intranet experts, such as James Robertson (Australia), Martin White (UK) and Jane McConnell (France).
This year, the Awards showed examples of the closing gap between websites and intranets in three key areas:
- Intranet design has entered the modern age
- Internal and external channels are aligning
- Internal social media is adding business value
Each of these themes is explored below.
Pushing the Boundaries of Intranet Design
A leading example of intranet design pushing the boundaries is Australian financial services company AMP’s the Hub. Based on an integration of SharePoint 2010 and Newsgator, the Hub successfully fuses publishing and collaboration in one integrated environment.
The most apparent unusual feature from a traditional intranet is the vertical rather than horizontal navigation, although apparently this was a “happy accident” made for performance reasons.
Equally noticeable is the prominent use of images, not only in the body of the pages but also in the icons used in navigation. The decision to use images for what AMP calls “visual-based browsing” was a strong theme coming out of co-creation cafes, designed to seek input and engagement from user populations. The site is modern and fresh, clearly influenced by social media and external facing sites, but still feels like an intranet.
Above: This landing page on AMP’s the Hub intranet uses images in both the body of the page and the navigation. Screenshot appears courtesy of AMP and Step Two Designs.
Aligning External and Internal Digital Channels
Companies interested in narrowing the design gap between internal- and external-facing sites are making the strategic decision to provide closer alignment in the user experience between both channels. Two of the winning entries, PwC Australia and Virgin America, set out with this aim.