Ten tips to optimize your intranet

Company intranets can be an effective way to communicate with your employees, but the plethora of information placed on them – internal memos, HR policies and procedures, organization news – can detract from user-friendliness and usefulness.

Streamlining your intranet may be easier than you think. In fact, it could be only 10 steps away, suggests David Cummings, president of content management software maker Hannon Hill Corp.

Here are his top 10 tips for intranet tweaking and finetuning:

1. Update it frequently with announcements and news

By updating the information on your intranet site frequently, your staff gets recent and accurate information. An intranet is a great way to spread the news.

2. Make it simple and easy to use

If it’s not easy to use, people won’t use it. The goal of an intranet should be to simplify and consolidate, not add to the mess.

“A best practice we’ve established to help keep it simple is the rule of seven,” says Cummings. “From a usability point of view, it’s important to not have more than seven links or navigation items, because when you do, it loses some of its effectiveness.”

He adds that people should look at the information architecture for all the different items on their intranet and group them into categories, preferably with no more than seven items per category.

“If you do need to have more than seven items together, break them down into subcategories.”

3. Provide a search feature

Your intranet is useless if people can’t find what they need. Even the most logically structured intranet needs a search bar for people in a hurry.

4. Track usage (hits and visitors)

Your idea of what’s useful and what’s actually used may be completely different. Keeping stats is a good way to help you shape your intranet according to your staff’s needs and expectations.

One of the best (and free) ways to track stats is to use Google Analytics, says Cummings.

“You basically put a couple lines of JavaScript code on every page of your intranet,” he says. “Once you’ve done that, Google takes care of the rest in terms of tracking the hits and visitors; you’re then able to look at usage patterns.

“We recommend looking at your analytics to see which pages are most visited and use that to drive which pages you update most often.”

5. Organize it logically according to departments and teams

By organizing content around departments, you give each department its own place to call home. An intranet’s functionality should reflect the functionality of the company.

6. Provide a starting page for each department

A starting page for each department provides staff quicker access to relevant information.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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