The intranet homepage, being the most visible page on the site, tends to be the most cluttered, the most littered, and the often the most confused, as it is there that staff often contend for space to post and advertise the links that they want their colleagues to see.
The homepage is the jumping off point for the rest of the site, and too often the clutter and convolution manage to bury and even camouflage the navigation tools, which really should be plainly visible for all. Although intranet homepages do need to be the homes of useful and interesting news feeds, it is important to never muddy the functionality of the page by overdoing the links and visuals.
As is the case with so many things, homepages are all about getting the balance right. If there are too many links, then it is likely that users will not click on any, and if the navigation tools are buried beneath all the clutter, far too much time will be wasted by staff trying to dig their way around the site which should be self-explanatory.
Let’s start with one of the homepage’s most important functions – the navigation bar. Indeed, when designing your homepage, start with that, making it clear, concise and functional, and build the rest of the page around it. The intranet homepage is the gateway through to the organisational information of the whole company, and allowing employees to attain easy access to this information is perhaps the whole point of having an intranet in the first place.
For some reason, a lot of intranets do not see fit to devote too much space to navigation on the homepage. What you will often find is a very slim navigation strip either across the top or down one side of the page, with only 4 or 5 links listed. These, of course, may then be burdened with awkward-to-use fly-out or drop-down menus, sometimes with multiple levels, making accessibility to the required information at least a chore, at worst impossible to find.
Intranets are only used when they are useful, which means that staff need to be able to find the information they require quickly and accurately. So, devote plenty of space to navigation on the homepage, and consider all of the avenues that staff may need to explore during the course of a working day and create a well-ordered, easy-to-find link for each.
The displaying of corporate news is absolutely essential for your intranet’s homepage, since it is, naturally, the most visited page on the site. However, just how that news is displayed is of equal importance. In order for your staff to navigate through all the headlines that you want to display, it is vital that you take great consideration over the structure of the information you provide.
When structuring the news feeds on your homepage:
Use a maximum of 3 different news sections for different types of news. There will be corporate news, media mentions, featured news, breaking news, operational updates, job postings and many more to choose from. But, don’t try and cram it all in there. If necessary, you can create space in your navigation to link to any that won’t fit neatly.
Make sure the summary of each article is well written, but most importantly succinct so as not to add to the clutter.
Only include an image if it provides additional information and/or context.
Enforce a clear policy for what is to be published as ‘news’ on the homepage – don’t waste vital space with updates that are neither useful nor relevant.
Tools and Functionality
Search and staff directories are the most frequently used tools of the intranet, so it is important to allocate space for them on the homepage.
Other business systems may also of be of perpetual use, such as tools relating to finance, operational business systems, workflow systems and hierarchy of work. Make sure these are visible too.
Some tools will need to be targeted to key user groups – sales people, managers, front-line staff, etc. So introducing a colour code for quick navigation is usually a good idea.
Ensure that functionality is always at the forefront of your model, so implementing single sign-on (SSO) to negate the need for additional log-ins is definitely something to think about.
All in all, the main thing to consider when constructing an intranet homepage that engages is to give utmost priority to its functionality and navigation. Having lots of links and images may look exciting, but it will be in the practicalities of the page that your staff will engage. Keep things clear and simple, avoid clutter, and allow appropriate space for tools and navigation.