Nielsen Norman Group released its annual intranet awards report earlier this month. The report clocks in at 463 pages and features this year’s winning intranet design teams and their intranets in great detail. Intranet Design Annual 2018: The Year’s 10 Best Intranets confirms the current trend of organizations making their intranets a place where people can connect, communicate and even collaborate.
While intranets may have taken a bit of a drubbing since the rise of social networks, modern intranet design has risen to the challenge. The vast majority of modern intranets now allow disparate groups around the enterprise to create their own pages which function as basic social networks, enabling members to communicate and even collaborate even when they are working with geographically dispersed teams.
Peter Carson, president of Mississauga, Ontario-based Extranet User Manager previously explained to CMSWire that effective intranets should share many of the same capabilities as an extranet.
"It should have only one log in phase when going through different programs while maintaining your digital security, be mobile friendly, be user-friendly for your management staff without needing help from the IT department, and be easily customizable to individuals in your organizations as well as follow your corporate branding guidelines,"he said.
Nielsen’s Top 10 Intranets
However, Robyn Hannah, senior director of Global Communications at San Bruno, Calif.-based Dynamic Signal told CMSWire that despite progress, many intranets are out of date and not fit for purpose. “Intranets have a place in the enterprise as a repository or resource center, but they’re hopelessly outdated when it comes to conveniently delivering targeted, timely information,” she said.
“Collaboration tools are a step in the right direction, but they still can’t track or measure message penetration and often just add to the noise. Both fall short of meeting the real communication needs of the enterprise.”
So are intranets effective and how far do they meet enterprise needs? This year’ top intranets all made it incredibly simple for their teams to create brand-compliant, design-consistent pages without needing any technical skills or web expertise.
Applying this and other winning design strategies are the world’s 10 best intranets for 2018 (in alphabetical order):
- American Medical Association (US), a national organization providing resources for physicians, residents, and medical students
- Archer Malmo (US), one of the largest independently owned full-service advertising agencies in the United States
- Capital Power (Canada), a North American power producer
- Delta Air Lines (US), one of the world’s largest global airlines
- eBay, Inc. (US), a multinational commerce company operating through its Marketplace, StubHub, and Classifieds platforms to connect millions of sellers with more than 169 million active buyers around the world
- GSK (UK), a science-led company that researches, develops, and manufactures innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products
- Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (Canada), a food manufacturer
- PKP Energetyka S.A. (Poland), an energy company
- The Travelers Companies, Inc. (US) a leading provider of property casualty insurance for auto, home and business
- UN World Food Programme (Italy), a leading humanitarian organization fighting hunger and working toward the global goal of ending hunger by 2030
All 10, according to the research, had three trending characteristics present in their design:
- Simplification: A strong focus on basic intranet design that focuses on information architecture, content and page structure.
- Mobile second: The best intranets this year were designed with the practical limitations of mobile design, often offering only the top tasks on intranets on the mobile site.
- Employee Photos: In a move away from the past, almost all the designs had photos of employees at work instead of the traditional use of stock images.
A Deeper Dive Into Nielsen Norman Group's Top 10 Intranets
While all of the top intranets shared the three themes above, each winning entry made it into the top 10 with specific strong points. Those strengths were as follows:
American Medical Association (AMA)
The AMA redesigned its intranet to improve communication and collaboration across a site that the organization believed did not serve its members. To do so, the organization moved its intranet onto Office 365 and SharePoint to support its 1000 users. Some of the project highlights the judges cited include the reduction, rewriting and updating of some of the 27,000 pages of intranet content. After assessing the intranet they cut the amount of content to 120 pages of up to date information and switched from centralized to decentralized publishing, creating content authors and creators across the entire organization.
Archer Malmo is a Memphis, Tenn.-based advertising agency. It built its intranet with the specific goal of centralizing the combined knowledge of the agency and giving users single access points. The intranet features accessible language and tools that make sharing information easy. It also enables constant user feedback on the content and state of the intranet. Other features include forms, easy search that displays content from the entire site. One of the quirkier features is the ‘Lunch Order’ app, that doesn’t just order food for employees, but brings them onto the intranet to do so.
Capital Power is a North American power producer headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. It redesigned its intranet to cater to the substantial number of workers who do not work in front of a desktop computer on a regular basis. It also designed it to be sustainable and to survive technology upgrades so that it could be updated rather than outdated as time goes by. The design had to be device neutral and responsive in all environments. The result was a Bonzai for SharePoint and Officer 365 intranet. The team also redesigned the content, deleting 350 pages of a 700 page site that were deemed out of date. They also provided ownership features so that content owners could take care of each individual piece of content.
The redevelopment of Delta’s intranet began with a site crash leaving the company without an intranet for 48 hours. With the support of the CEO and COO, the team received the funding to rebuild the intranet that services 80,000 employees, but supports 260,000 including outside contractors, partners and former employees. The resulting redesign focused on community and accessibility anywhere, any device, any time. It too had to cull large amounts of outdated content and provided training for the 500 content developers on the site. The design is flat, which limited the use do 3-D elements, while they also changed design elements likes text sign and additional spacing to make it easy to read.
San Jose, Calif.-based eBay has an intranet used by close to 20,000 people with 13,000 to 14,000 unique users every month. The intranet was built on SharePoint and was collapsing under unbridled content and more than 30,000 team sites. To lighten the load, the team built a new intranet using open source technology to create a site focused primarily on news, search, profiles and notification. The open source element meant it had to be built from scratch. The benefit of this is the builders were not locked-in and could build anything they wanted, or needed. The search is one of the most notable features enabling users to search third-party tools like Office and Google Drive. A connection to an analytics platform makes it easy for intranet managers to track what is being used or not.
GSK is a UK-based global pharmaceutical company with 140,000 workers and associates using the intranet. The result is it had become too big and unwieldy. Users and content creators were finding it difficult to create or even manage pages. The redesign was built around a ‘less is more’ strategy that aimed to provide access to the most important personalized content for the user. They also created new publishing tools for consistency across the intranet, including a brand template tool, a services gateway, new simplified page creation and pages, giving the overall site consistency that was previously lacking.
Maple Leaf Foods
Maple Leaf Foods is a Mississauga, Ontario-based consumer protein company with an intranet built on Office 365 that serves 3,400 of its 11,000 employees. The intranet was redesigned to support the company's digital strategy of finding "New Ways To Work." The objective was to create a way of connecting workers with the data they need to do their jobs easily. The team moved from a centralized content creation model to a more open system with many more authors. Its presence on Office 365 dispensed with the need for servers and shared drives. Yammer has also been added to enable social collaboration.
PKP is one of the largest energy companies in Poland based in Warsaw. The company has about 7000 intranet users, including office staff and field workers. The company uses a lot of complex systems internally for its daily work, so wanted the intranet to be aesthetically beautiful and easy to use to optimize employee engagement. It also wanted to move away from the use of email and print to communicate company information. It developed the site in stages using user feedback to start the next stage. It also simplified content creation and moved content in shared drives to the intranet.
New York City-based Travelers Insurance has a highly connected workforce with all employees using desktop, laptop and mobile devices as part of their daily routine. The objective was to provide employees with the content they need to get their job done. The site has a considerable amount of personalization that can be customized even further according to the needs of the user. Tools are easy to reach and use and search is enabled to find the right person to carry out a task. It was also built using responsive design principals, so that all the features available on desktop are also available on mobile.
UN World Food Program
Based in Rome, the UN World Food Program works in 80 countries across the world. All its staff use the intranet. The intranet provides a single point of access to all of its resources through menus and pages, making it easy to launch applications and services from the global navigation. It also applied this same approach to information and services, with a goal of making everything needed to get work done quickly and easily accessible. The intranet simplified cross-departmental connections in an organization with a very complex structure.