Jakob Nielsen has released his latest Intranet Design Annual. In it he lists the 10 best Intranets for 2008, discussing why they won. While the winners are interesting to know, what’s even more important are the reasons why they won – offering best practices and guidance to companies who want to make their own Intranet better. According to the reports findings, there are seven important considerations to establishing a good intranet:

Integrating Company News

It’s time to take company news more seriously on the intranet. It’s getting much more homepage real estate. Companies are investing significant resources to create, edit and maintain company news.Development of news using multimedia has grown to a new high this year. Some companies are finding ways to mix corporate news with regional/departmental news directly on the homepage.

Some Key Features are Old Favorites

The report finds that some of the key features in the winning intranets are actually old favorites. The twist? They are more polished and the focus on the user experience is driving the quality of the tools higher. Some favorites include: * Employee Directory – companies are going beyond the basics to deliver enhanced employee directories that help employees find people * Single Sign On (SSO) – still a strong determinant of employee satisfaction, employees find they are more productive when they don’t have to log in to multiple applications * Integration– one of the keys to a quality intranet is a single Information Architecture (IA) with consistent navigation and user experience * CMS - special interfaces for improved usability for authors and publishers * Updated content – keeping content fresh is a critical component to a successful quality intranet

Focusing on Productivity and Knowledge Management

The best intranets focus on providing tools for employees that make them more productive in their everyday work lives. To do this, sometimes the smaller tools are the trick (like simple online forms). It’s not necessary to always spend time on creating advanced applications. The key is to consider what employees need to do their jobs and introduce tools to help them do it better or faster. As for Knowledge Management – it’s a key goal with a new approach. It’s about recognizing that “knowledge resides with people”. There’s renewed design focus on improving access to the people with the knowledge.

Intranet Design Trends

Lots of interesting trends were found: * Increased personalization and integration of alert functionality * Emphasis on mission critical apps and information * Integration of external and internal company news * Improved or redesigned search features * Improved calendars for events and projects * New employee orientation sections * Prominent display of company financial information, including stock quotes

Easing up on the Branding

There are now three types of Intranet branding used. The focus is not as much on branding the intranet with a unique name as it on either not branding it all (calling it "the intranet") or branding it with the company brand name (not a strong brand in itself). Focus needs to continue to be on internal marketing efforts. These are required to ensure that employees are aware of the features available and new areas introduced.

Selecting a Technology Platform

There is no clear winning platform according to the report. There were 41 different products used in the intranets examined. The most often used were SharePoint and Google Search Appliance. Other popular technologies included Red Hat Linux, Lotus Notes and Domino and Oracle DB. There is no clear set of technologies for an intranet as new ones are introduced all the time.

Identifying ROI for your Intranet

The winning intranets focused efforts on producing the intranet and not on “justifying their work by measuring the return-on-investment (ROI). However, many still had to show improvements to productivity. Measuring ROI on productivity is tough. Some of the research showed productivity gains from improvements were on average 72%. The key is to set measurable goals in advance. So who are the top ten for Intranet Design? According to the report they include: * Bank of America, US * Bankinter S.A., Spain * Barnes and Noble, US * British Airways, UK * Campbell Soup Company, US * Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation, US * IKEA North America Service, LLC, US * Ministry of Transport, New Zealand * New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia * SAP AG, Germany You can purchase the full 2008 Intranet Design Annual on the Usability website. If it’s a conference you want, sign-up for the Usability Conference 2008. What do you think of these best practices? Give us your opinion.