Here’s a difficult question: would you rather work somewhere with a painfully slow, headache inducing and confusing Intranet, or somewhere with smooth systems, graceful file integration and an intuitive interface? Tricky one huh?
Despite how obvious it may seem, many employees continue to report an unsatisfactory User Experience (UX) with their companies’ Intranets. These portals are often designed with functionality in mind while the actual UX is rarely more than a last minute consideration. The prevailing view is that, as long as staff can get work done it’s fine, whether they actually enjoy using the system is an irrelevance.
However, while UX is often ignored, failing to address it can lead to some considerable hidden costs. Whether it’s simply a lack of engagement, a negative perception of the brand, inefficiency or the need for additional training, a poor UX on internal User Interfaces (UIs) may lead to staff feeling less than impressed by your lack of attention. For companies that value their most precious assets – the employees who keep the ball rolling – making sure they actually find working on your systems enjoyable is essential.
UX: a cost benefit analysis
If you remember the days when Intranets were little more than notice boards, you’ll likely remember how ineffective and frustrating they could be when you actually had to find helpful information. Fortunately, since the appearance of SharePoint we’ve seen Intranets evolve into powerful tools with extraordinary capabilities. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of bad Intranets out there and failing to improve them can have negative consequences:
- Staff may feel frustrated when searching for important information.
- Inefficiencies when navigating the portal will slow employees down.
- Staff require (expensive) additional training to understand how to use it.
On the other hand, turning your Intranet into a place with engaging content, a smooth UX and intuitive design can encourage:
- Increased brand loyalty
- More and improved collaboration
- A feeling of ownership and belonging
It’s clear that a good Intranet with a great UX will help employee engagement and marks out an efficient and organized company. Below are six areas that really count towards a great Intranet:
1. Being intuitive
If you’ve spent months storyboarding, wireframing and then developing your new Intranet, you’ll want to be sure that users will actually “get it”. A UX which is familiar to them and therefore easy to use has to be a principal consideration here. Enterprise Social Networks are increasingly common within businesses of all sizes and include features similar to those on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. When employees feel familiar with the workings of your Intranet they are much more likely to engage and develop a bond with it.
2. Simple navigation
As we’ve seen, the benefits of increased employee engagement with an Intranet are considerable, and this is particularly the case for customer facing colleagues. Letting them work around the system easily, find what they want when they need it and relay this onto clients is crucial. Being able to discover information quickly means staff are more likely to use the Intranet and get work done more efficiently; if not for this, why invest in Intranets at all?
3. An appealing UI
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That said, a clearly laid out interface with direct and easy to use pages will definitely improve UX. Beyond nice colour schemes it’s worth remembering that no one likes surprises, so keeping pages consistent in style and structure will let employees do what they need to with less confusion. The general rule in design is that “less is more” and this definitely applies to Intranets. Give users what they need and want and don’t pack pages with endless text, flashing widgets and other ‘noise’.
4. Achieve a purpose
This may seem an obvious requirement but many Intranets continue to fill their sites with pointless pages – lists of meeting rooms, photos of redundant offices, directories of ex-employees. Sometimes you need to go into these with a hatchet, removing anything which lacks an obvious purpose. That’s not to say you permanently delete the information, but finding ways to store it better is just good practice. This will not only make the site lighter and easier to navigate but also get employees to the required information faster.
When an Intranet allows employees to really engage with colleagues and senior management, they’re much more likely to feel a sense of belonging to the company. Not only does this mean they’ll feel greater loyalty to the business and its goals, but they’ll also spend more time sharing ideas, redistributing their knowledge and collaborating over it. In this way you can capture tacit knowledge and ensure it gets used effectively.
6. Perfect integration
The Intranets’ most popular with employees are those which are most accessible and easy to use. By offering a UX which can be easily viewed from mobiles, tablets and desktops, and which intuitively draws different platforms and solutions into one place, you can be sure that employees will really engage with your Enterprise IT solutions.
An opportunity not to be missed
Ensuring that employees are interested in your brand, enthusiastic and invested in its success is key to growth. Workers are your most important assets, especially in a knowledge based environment where fresh ideas and creativity are essential. Keeping your colleagues engaged and interested in their company with a great UX will not only make their working environment more enjoyable, but also get the best out of them – and what business wouldn’t want that?