If Content is King, then How Do You Help it Rule Your Intranet?

In January of 1996, Bill Gates published the essay titled “Content is King” on the Microsoft website. The article was written with internet in mind, but intranet is no exception to the principles shared. If your users are not able to find what they’re looking for, it might as well not even be there.

Luckily, with these 4 techniques to guide you, your intranet can be transformed to surpass your own expectations.

1. Perform Content Audit with Relevant Groups

Successful intranet is used daily.

Your employees have many options to get to what they’re looking for, and they will choose the easiest one. Unfortunately, without even realizing it, some of these options are can result in costly mistakes in the form of misinformation, errors, and reworks.

Help your users by making the most relevant and accurate content available all in one place.

The best place to start is to gather your key intranet stakeholders in one room and determine the most frequently accessed content in their groups.

Be sure to include the following stakeholders:

  • Communications (and Marketing)

    • Provide content about the company in general: news, events, corporate information, templates, etc.

  • Human Resources

    • Provide content for employees: benefits, careers, learning and development, social and engagement channels, etc.

  • Operations (Business Units)

    • Provide content related to business functions: safety, operations, business resources, polices and procedures, knowledge bases, etc.

Among other stakeholders be sure to also include:

  • Project Management/ Sponsors, to ensure buy-in on decisions.

  • Information Technology (IT), to ensure compliance and technical agreement and ownership of the solution.

This process can be completed in no more than 1 to 2 workshops with everyone in attendance and participating.

We gather content in a series of guided Content Audit exercises, where participants get to contribute their content ideas and gradually refine them into relevant buckets and categories, to determine which resources are the most valuable

2. Eliminate Content with No Owners

Less is more

A proverb coined in an 1855 Robert Browning poem, it has been used since then as a reminder that simple and clear designs are the most effective. This holds true for intranet design as well.

This isn’t just a proverb either, many human behavior studies indicate that readers prefer content that is simple, concise, and reliable. The easier it is to read the content the better.

No one has ever complained that something is too simple to understand, and when it comes to the content on the intranet it also means:

Remove any content that won’t have an owner at the time of launch

During your Content Audit workshop your stakeholders will come up with brilliant ideas that don’t fit anywhere. Don’t stress!

You don’t have to throw everything that doesn’t fit away. Some ideas can be kept on the drawing board and when the time comes, where someone agrees to own the area or content, those ideas can be revived and put on the intranet.

3. Group Content by Function

Transform your content into structure.

You’ve got the content and it’s relevant to your audience, now how do you transform it into an actual structure?

The key is to determine functional themes emerging from the content.

Here is a fraction of the unstructured content map from one Content Audit workshop.

unstructured intranet content.jpg

Here are the guiding principles and questions to ask when determining your functional themes:

  • Who is the content for?

    • Is it for a specific team member or anyone in the company? This question will help you determine whether the content belongs on the outer loop for everyone to access or the inner loop for members of specific teams.

  • Why are they looking for the content? What’s their end goal

    • to get informed/ research?

    • to participate/ engage with work community?

    • to complete a specific business task?

  • Are they in ‘Business’ or ‘Employee’ frame of mind?

    • Is resource related to them as an employee or business related

Let’s use [Links to ADP] (a third-party benefits and payroll portal) from the above map as an example.

  • Who is the content for?

    • Anyone in the company. So, this belongs on the outer loop. Even though a specific team, such as payroll, may use it the most frequently, everyone is going to need access.

  • Why are they looking for content?

    • To complete a specific task, such as “I need to check my paystub”.

  • Are they in Business or Employee frame of mind?

    • This falls into both categories. For the average employee this resource is for personal use, but for payroll this resource is for business use.

The result would be a new functional content area:

[Employee Resources] with potential sub-area for [Benefits].

Next, the process is repeated for the rest of the content, resulting in structured content similar to this:

structured intranet content.jpg

4. Structure Groups by Function

Successfully grouped content is half the battle. What’s left is organizing the content so that it resembles a tree, this layout can then be used to build your site navigation and metadata.


  • The user’s intranet journey

    • Users on their “employee” journey are in a different frame of mind than users trying to complete a business task. Ensure your structure reflects that with the appropriate labels.

  • Keep your top functional links to seven or less. Don’t forget, less is more!

    • Links beyond seven start to become repetitive and makes it harder for the user to start their journey.

      • In our behavioural tests, users began to make comments like: “I didn’t know where to start,” “I was bouncing between 3 options for each question asked,” or “options were very vague.”

  • Don’t duplicate content.

    • In our behavioural test, sometimes we see users expecting to access the same content from 2 places. In this case, we create a link in less prominent area (according to behavioral results) and keep the original content in more prominent area.

We’re here to help

Intranets built with the above Content Audit approach report higher adoption and employee satisfaction.
In our behavioral analytics, we see comparative results indicating how much faster users are at finding information and how much less navigation they require to access it.

We’d be happy to help you get started with an objective consultation.


Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the Director of Product at Origami. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.