my world of work and user experiences

March 31, 2012

Intranet trends 2012 according to Nielsen

Filed under: Usability — frederique @ 20:47

The intranet world according to Nielsen is evolving and keeps getting improved. It is getting more social, but not more mobile as fast as we’d like. I always like to read the yearly Intranet Design Annual – The Year’s 10 Best Intranets….

Some trends from the report….

  • Mobile is not growing as expected
    Only 1 of the 10 winning intranets has a mobile version, which is disappointing after the good results in last year’s report (see 2011 annual post) .
  • Information Architecture and navigation
    “The great intranet designers today know that an intranet’s foundation is its IA, and that they should begin working on it early in the design process.”
    • Centralized IA to bridge silos
      Team sites give teams have a place to work, but the risk is that the teams only see their own ‘silo’ sites and miss what happens elsewhere. Nielsen sees that several of the winners have managed to create a central Information Architecture that accommodates everyone. Also, this year’s intranets are particularly good at linking content together in a manageable web for the users
    • Innovative menus
      Several of the winners use mega-menus, with category sections, to give a better overview of what’s available and quicker access to lower levels. One winner also has a mini-dashboard of icons on each page, with short cuts to key content.
      Nielsen stresses that the winning teams thoroughly tested their nonstandard menu interfaces and and iterated their design. Otherwise you may end up with something that looks spiffy but is incomprehensible and un-usable.
    • Customizable targeting 
      Targeting helps the user to focus on what’s relevant, but that backfires if the user does not fit in a neat pigeon hole. The trend Nielsen sees is to allow users to select a different role (e.g. for a different location) to browse other content.
  • Content is still king
    • Include it in the design process
      In order to get a better feel for the content and how it would fit on your pages, don’t use “lorem ipsum” dummy test but real content, right from the beginning.
    • Multimedia are going strong
      Photos, videos and other multimedia continue to play an important role. An interesting example are recordings of customer service phone calls, that focus all employees on the customer.
    • Languages continues to be a challenge
      In multilingual companies, the primary language is often used for the general pages, while specific local content is in the local language.  Some companies translate company-wide into several corporate languages. And some countries leave it up to the author, asking them to tag it with the language.
  • People and social
    • Quick access to co-worker information
      The winners make it easy to find interesting people, like experts, and ask them questions.
    • Wall feeds integrated with profile pages
      We know ‘writing on the wall’ from social media like Facebook. This years, such feeds appeared on intranets as well.
    • Supportive and accessible management
      Executives are sharing information on many intranets and they do it well.
    • Celebrating personal content
      Employees are people as well, so many intranets not only encourage business content, but personal content as well.
  • Engage and interact
    • Feedback to encourage participation
      Contributors want to know how much interest there is in their content. Some winners provide metrics to the content owners, and some even make these metrics visible so that everyone knows who are top contributors.
    • Collaborative approach to design
      Most of the winners actively involved key people in the design process, via user tests and informing stakeholders, in the different locations. One company even invited all employees to join the planning calls in the early stages.
    • Commenting continues
      Most of the winners offer the option to comment on pages and articles. Usually people comment on controversial topics, and on articles that end with an explicit call to action or question.

“When employees switch between using the web and their company intranets, they shouldn’t feel like they’ve gone from driving a 2012 ZL1 Camaro to a 1989 Chevy Nova with faulty brakes”

Right you are mister Nielsen!


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