Brandemix has been creating company intranets since 2008. I thought it would be interested to see how best practices and innovations from that year compare with the latest design trends of 2015. Looking back at how far intranets have come can give insights on to where they’re going next.
I’ve dug through the Brandemix archives and conducted a web search limited to 2008 to determine what was trending then, and contrasted the results with this year’s innovations.
Intranets used to be accessible only to employees sitting at their desks. That meant a large screen, often a Windows operating system, and standard dimensions and colors. Thus, the intranet had to look good on only what type of machine. After all, why would an employee check work information at home, in their free time? And they certainly wouldn’t use a mobile device to browse a company’s intranet, since the first iPhone had been released only a few months before.
Of course, the iPhone changed all that. Now employees want to be able to check their benefits, schedules, sick pay, and other information anytime. And they do it on a number of different devices with at least three different operating systems. As the Nielsen Norman Group notes about this year’s Intranet Design Award-winners, “bevels, shadows, and elaborate framing effects” have mostly given way to simple flat circles and rectangles, the easier to be tapped by a thumb. Responsive design is a must, since the intranet must look good on devices of every size.
Then: Photo of the day
Now: Image carousel
In 2008, intranets were transitioning from utilitarian (and boring) text-only formats and starting to embrace multimedia, starting with photos. Many organizations posted a “Photo of the Day” that greeted employees when they accessed the intranet. Some of these pictures were from the company’s files or employee events, others were simply stock images, which weren’t very engaging.
In 2015, many organizations are using image carousels to provide multiple photos to employees each time they log in. Here, the content drives the images — if it’s open enrollment for health benefits, the image might reflect health and wellness. It the winter holidays are nearing, the image may show employees exchanging gifts or spending time with their families. This makes the intranet homepage much more relevant and engaging for workers, and makes the entire site easier to navigate.
Then: One-way video
Now: Interactive video
Seven years ago, video was just making its way onto intranets. Back then, you could expect two kinds of content: Training videos and speeches from executives. Useful, but limiting. There was no chance for a employees to respond or to post their own videos. The intranet was considered a one-way portal of information, with no thought of employees contributing to the conversation.
Today, the idea of social media has changed that philosophy. Rather than posting “official” videos of corporate events, some companies allow employees to post their own, since virtually every worker has a camera in their pocket at every event. Health company Klick uses video in a unique way: After an employee submits a question, an expert on the topic records an answer with an iPhone and uploads the video to intranet. This makes knowledge-sharing much more fun and interactive than a typical training video. Organizations have finally caught on and stopped making videos play automatically — a pet peeve of mine.
Then: Intranet as document dump
Now: Intranet as vault of knowledge
In the early days of intranets, companies would basically dump all their documents into their internal server. Press releases, legal documents, health insurance information, employee handbooks, old blog posts. Often it wasn’t indexed or categorized or searchable. Without a direct link, employees had to sift through a lot of blurry scans and weirdly formatted pages to find useful information.
Today, companies see an intranet as a respository of knowledge that can inform and engage employees. They take the time to scan and index documents, and tag them with descriptive keywords, so that employees can easily access them. Some organizations have taken the next step and implemented federated search, allowing one search to run through multiple databases. Others, like IBM, have made employees part of their knowledge base by connecting experts in different fields. Rather than searching a “normal” database, workers search for a colleague who can provide the answers they need.
Then: Brandemix could help you
Now: Brandemix can help you
Brandemix has been creating and enhancing company intranets since 2007. We know the latest trends and can customize your intranet’s capabilities to your exact needs. We also believe that extending your brand through internal communications is the best way to build employee engagement and commitment. Through our four-phase process, we build intranets that promote your business objectives, tell employees the forces driving it, and keep them up to date.
Ready for an intranet that will still be effective and engaging in 2023? Contact Brandemix.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
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As Brandemix looks forward to the launch of our own new website (coming soon), it’s time to recognize and celebrate great website makeovers!
We’re holding a contest to reward the best refresh, revamp, and relaunch of websites (Click here for contest rules). Any organization, any size, profit or nonprofit.
Simply submit “before and after” images to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it the top ten judged entries on our Pinterest board during the voting period. Feel free to post as a web designer or a fan, even if you weren’t responsible for the change. Don’t have the “before”? Use the Wayback Machine.
The redesign with the most total likes, comments, and repins will win a free press release, distributed to hundreds of outlets, announcing both the design achievement and the victory.
We’ll also capture the success and and those responsible for it on video, and post it here on our blog and our Facebook page. The whole world will learn all about the website and the brand.
What kind of things are we looking for? Here’s the Lindal Group, a manufacturing company, before their website refresh:
This and other website makeovers are on our contest pinboard on Pinterest. Vote by commenting, repinning, liking — or all three! The website with the most total votes by Monday, September 17 wins the free press release, video interview, and eternal internet fame.
Submit your site, or any other, by emailing email@example.com. Remember to include both a before and after shot.