Intranet Design Trends for 2019

Summary: Among the top intranet design trends for 2019, these stood out: focus on Information Architecture to improve information findability, reduced average time to build an intranet using pre-built structures and tools , and finally focus on involving intranet team stakeholders to represent wider audience of the business.


Intranet Teams and Stakeholders

Your Intranet Team composition plays a vital role in how your intranet will be designed, launched, and adopted.

An Intranet team includes:

  • Project team, which is the team of stakeholders who design the intranet.

  • Operational team, which is a team of authors and support staff to help run the intranet once it’s launched

Intranet Project includes the following roles:

  • Representative from each of main Content Areas

    • Communications

    • Human Resources

    • IT

    • Other areas of the business, such as “Safety”

  • Project Manager

  • Project Sponsor

While the operational team usually consists of:

  • Intranet Manager

  • Content authors

  • Support staff

The trend has been showing that the best intranets out there, have on average, 10 intranet stakeholders (Project + Operational team) for a small or medium size organization, and up to 20 stakeholders in a large organization.

Intranet Stakeholder Team Size for Award Winning Intranets as tracked by Nielsen Norman each year

Intranet Stakeholder Team Size for Award Winning Intranets as tracked by Nielsen Norman each year

These are not all full-time roles, although larger organizations commonly have a full-time intranet manager and one dedicated support staff member. The rest are part-time resources: content writers and contributors.

The key for the intranet project team is to have even distribution among your key content area owners. This allows for even representation for your organization audience rather than heavy focus on just key areas, such as: IT or Communications.

We also recommend measuring outputs in your design workshops to ensure that input received from a small group of stakeholders doesn’t carry bias. Here is how we recommend measuring outputs from the information architecture sessions produced by an intranet team.

Organization Staff Size Intranet Project Team Size Operational Team Size (FTE)
100 6 0.5
1000 7 1
10,000 9 2

Here is also a guide on how many stakeholders to include in your intranet teams (project + operational) relative to the size of the organization:

Focus on Information Structure

The key goal for an intranet apart from communication is to help staff find information: Forms, Guides, Policies, Templates, Business Resources etc.

Organizations have seen over the years that staff struggle when looking for information in structures which haven’t been designed with Information Architecture (IA) usability principles in mind. Traditionally, the findability issue has been attempted to be solved with extensive branding and custom development.

Organizations have observed that well thought out IA design helps their users achieve better usability and adoption results as compared to extensive branding and customizations.

As more companies realize this, IA design is one of the growing trends during the intranet design phase.

Office 365 Hub Sites

Even with Microsoft’s introduction of hub sites, the issue of well-designed IA doesn’t go away, since information architecture still needs to be considered even though it’s easier to move the sites around. Here is more about the impact of hub sites and things to know.


Reduced Development Time

Rollout times have decreased dramatically over the past 5 years. Typical intranet project lasted about a year for a larger organization before it’s rolled out. This is a significant reduction from the previous years as you can see from the chart below produced with data from Nielsen Norman research.

Using pre-built solutions reduce that timeline. Medium sized organizations can deploy and launch intranets in 6-8 months or less.

Here is the historical trend for larger organizations:

Average number of years typical larger sized organization has invested in creating an intranet according to Nielsen Normal research. The trend for the past 5 years is about 13 months to create and launch an intranet.

Average number of years typical larger sized organization has invested in creating an intranet according to Nielsen Normal research. The trend for the past 5 years is about 13 months to create and launch an intranet.

Another streamlining factor is that organizations are taking more agile approaches. The most suitable method is building an intranet with minimal viable release first and deploying incremental updates after the intranet has launched.

Minimal viable release still focuses on key goals for the intranet, which means laying the foundational core components such as user interface design and IA design. This aspect is confirmed by a measuring only award-winning intranets according to Nielsen Norman.


Most Popular Features

Intranet feature trends for 2019 include the following top 10 picks:

  • News and Events + Targeting

    • Most organizations’ primary mechanism for sharing information, company news, employee news and events. Targeting news to a particular role or location is another growing trend for organizations of larger size and distributed workforce.

  • Employee Directory

    • Common across organizations small and large is the directory of staff. The growing trend is to have the data in the directory auto-populated from Office 365, reducing room for data entry error and keeping the directory up-to-date.

  • Forms Directory

    • This is commonly requested to help staff find relevant forms.

  • Templates and Samples Directory

    • Another common feature aimed at retaining knowledge and building consistency in deliverables companies are producing.

  • How-To Directory

    • Commonly used for employees (newly onboarded more frequently) to find common tips on for example: how to use suppliers, order services, work specific technology etc.

  • Policies Directory

    • Similar to How-To, a place for staff to find company rules and engagement steps in a single easy to find place.

  • Project Directory

    • With many organizations working projects-based (internal or external), the need for a centralized project directory and ability to locate project sites is growing.

  • Workflow automation and Self Serve

    • The demand for self-serve is on the rise whether it’s a request to provision a new project site, or track HR processes and collect signatures.

  • Mobility

    • Mobile responsive rendering is growing in demand due to staff accessing intranets from mobile devices.

  • Department Sites

    • Department sites are still a common ask among customer who would like to provide department specific information and content on their department site.

Conclusion

In summary, among top intranet design trends for 2019, we have: increased focus on Information Architecture to make information much easier to find, reduced average time to build and intranet and using pre-built intranets to achieve that, and finally more focus on involving intranet team stakeholders representing wider audience of the business.

Have a question? We’d love to hear from you!

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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.

@spentsarsky