When designing an intranet for corporate use, what design practices should I follow that are different from those targeted to the internet/customer world?

What kind of questions should I be asking about the layout? How will I know what's important so the thing actually gets used? What's actually not that important?

How do I get my users to love the intranet?

5 Answers 5


There are a couple things, but the basic objective (and thus approach) is the same. You want users to actually use the intranet:

  • Have news or interesting company info (that changes) on the home page
  • If your company has Yammer -- implement a yammer feed on the home page
  • Give users some customization options (weather, if you have more than one office, let them choose their weather location, maybe even let them pick more than one zip code)
  • It has to be fast -- users don't like to wait, and they don't have to wait for Google or bing or facebook, if your intranet site is not fast users won’t come back
  • Allow users to add a news feed from Google or CNN or something similar

All these points go to having good content that changes enough that users would want to periodically poll the intranet to see what’s new. I highly recommend you checkout the iGoogle home pages (I believe it requires a google account to setup) and the standard Yahoo and MSN home pages for inspiration.


I would argue that you should follow similar practises to external websites, as they are competitors for your employees time and attention. So usefulness and attractiveness are important. Your bosses may want the intranet to feature corporate messages, but the employees want useful information.

It should be a place for fostering the relationships and discussions that happen already offline - so simple social networking features, profiles and discussions will help with that.


You kind of answered your own question just by thinking about the general internet. Intranets, like normal websites, should be:

  • Useful - the user should be able to do something they cannot do elsewhere, or be able to do it better
  • Usable - users should be able to find the content they want, interact with it, and achieve their goals.
  • Attractive - enough said, though 'on-brand' also helps here by reinforcing internal marketing.
  • Most importantly: justify the expense on your intranet as the amount of value it's going to give back.

For example, say one goal is to use it as a document library for tech support to be able to find product information placed by engineering, then you will need to

  1. Make it easy for engineering to place the content.
  2. Make it easy for tech support to find the content.
  3. Analyse whether the cost of having a system like this is the most efficient and effective way of having this process in the first place.

Too often, people build intranets like they are 'free', when in fact they can be quite expensive by the time development and maintenance is taken into account. So it's good to see you actually thinking about this stuff.


I believe it's all to do with personalisation and flexibility. Users have to be able to personlise the intranet to their liking. It's a tool to help them work effectively. Not everyone has the same job and people certainly don't all work the same way. Users should be able to choose the colours, which modules/information boxes are displayed and where on the screen those modules appear. Users should be able to choose the display of data/information relevant to their job. This isn't always the same info that the management think users should be fed.

Your intranet must become the start page of all activity the user undertakes. One central place from where they can get all the information they need, with minimal clickage. :-)

Users like a bit of fun/light hearted relief from their work. Can be contentious with some employers as don't see it as "work". However a rss feed that links to unusual news stories or a cartoon might just bring a smile to the workers face. A happy worker is a good worker.


I'd love to see a corporate intranet based upon something social such as BuddyPress. Depending on the ethos, it'd really encourage a social undercurrent to the organisation and would keep people checking back periodically.

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