10 Tips for Creating an Effective Intranet

Written by Vineeta G - June 6, 2014

An intranet has the potential to be a very powerful business tool. If designed right, it’s an effective way to promote communication and collaboration within an organisation. It can help staff to work faster and smarter, enhance the company culture, and encourage a feeling of community to help staff feel more engaged with an employer who values their opinion.

If done wrong however, it can be little more than a fancy phone directory – and a serious waste of time and money.

Here are our 10 top tips for creating an effective intranet for your organisation.

1. Keep the Technology Simple

Choose a simple, straightforward platform for your intranet, not some elaborate technical piece of architecture that requires frequent micromanagement and causes daily headaches.  IT teams have enough on their plate without needing to spend weeks or even months building a new intranet solution.

There’s no doubt that WordPress is one of the most popular platforms in the industry, but its use as an intranet is often overlooked. However, WordPress has grown beyond its blogging roots and now has the capabilities to drive a variety of different websites. It’s easy to customise and use, and capable of building a beautiful intranet.

2. Usability is the Key to Success

User experience is one of the most important aspects of your intranet. For your intranet to be a success, your staff need to be able to use it and to find what they’re looking for. Quickly.

It should have an attractive design, be intuitive to navigate, and have a clear, well-defined layout (all easy to achieve if you choose WordPress as your platform).

When planning your intranet, think carefully about what you want your users to do with it, and build it around their needs.

Make sure you include an effective search function. It’s essential that your employees can locate the information they need to find quickly and efficiently.

3. Take a Phased Approach

Whether you’re building a new intranet from scratch, or giving a new lease of life to an old network, don’t get bogged down with a monster project. Get the basics set up first, make sure staff know how to engage with it, then make gradual changes and improvements as you go along.

If you overload your new intranet with lots of fancy features from the outset, there is greater potential for things to go wrong. Introduce new features gradually, troubleshooting as you go.

4. Ask for User Input

An intranet is for the internal staff of an organisation, so it’s important that you listen to their needs and requirements. Ask the users what they want from their intranet, and request feedback and suggestions as you grow and develop your resource.

Don’t forget that intranets use technologies, such as JavaScript and HTML, that many people understand, so be open-minded if your staff have an idea for changing or improving your ideas. This is a perfect opportunity to encourage collaboration amongst your staff and take a team-based approach to the task.

5. Appoint an Individual or Team to Oversee Development

Your intranet isn’t going to organically grow and develop of its own accord. It needs somebody to have overall control of how it develops, to check the content is accurate and current, and to decide which feedback is implemented.

If staff are going to contribute content themselves (which should be encouraged) you also need a clear set of content creation policies and general guidelines to establish the content that is suitable for your intranet, and what should be avoided.  This should include style guidelines, and legal and security issues.

6. Make Sure the Content is Written for the Intranet

A little tip – just because you know how to write for business, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to write for the intranet. When you’re creating your content, remember that your colleagues will consume the information differently from how they would read an annual report or white paper. People don’t really read online material – they scan it.

In addition, your colleagues are busy people. When they’re looking for information online they’re often in a hurry with many other things competing for their attention.

So when you’re writing this content, use clear, catchy titles and make the information brief and easy to scan. Use a conversational tone that’s suitable for your organisation, spice things up with a variety of media including images and videos, and always write with the users’ end goal in mind.

7. Invest in Employee Training

Your intranet is only going to be as efficient as those who are using it, so if you want to get the best out of it schedule some employee training sessions.

Ideally, you should look to train employees from the same departments together, so you can target your training specifically for their needs and you won’t overwhelm people with lots of information they will never need to know.

This also gives you the perfect opportunity to solicit feedback and suggestions for future improvements and developments.

8. Encourage a Sense of Community

It’s important that your intranet is open to everybody at your organisation. To encourage a sense of community, invite your users to contribute content and value. Consider using role-based homepages and enable staff to share information and participate in discussions that are relevant to their role.

Remember to include some features that are fun to use, such as internal bulletin boards, where people can post about local news and events and items to buy and sell, and consider social tools such as a chat function or employee walls.

9. Make It Mobile

Remember that not all of your employees are going to be in the office all of the time. Many people work from home, or have roles that require them to travel, so make sure that the intranet is accessible to them too.

Making your intranet accessible via smartphones and tablets will encourage a sense of inclusivity for all staff, and will enable employees to access important documents and resources wherever they are.

10. Pay Attention to Security

Finally, your intranet will undoubtedly contain some sensitive information so addressing your security is a key consideration, especially if you allow remote access and use on mobile devices. Hackers may try to gain access to your confidential records, viruses can zip between staff in seconds, and employees may spend time loitering on prohibited websites.

Ensure you have an effective firewall, and use proxy servers, virus scanners and network monitoring tools to prevent these problems.

An intranet is a powerful business tool and a source of truth for your company. It gives you an opportunity to engage your staff, give them a voice, and encourage collaboration and communication. But it’s only as good as the content it provides and the communication it facilitates, so make sure that your content is accurate and up to date, and your communication channels are open and monitored.

What do you think makes a good company intranet? Are there any tips or suggestions you would add to our list? Let us know in the comments below.