On its own, an intranet is not going to solve all of your problems.
But, a well managed intranet, used strategically, can drastically change how your business operates. This mini-series is going to cover the strategies that will help you do this; three posts on getting these things right and to get you in a great place for your technology to have maximum impact on your business.
Today, we’re going to look at how to structure, manage and maintain your internal content.
Step one: getting your content in order
We’re committed to the philosophy that good web design is as much about the content as it is about the code. Your intranet can be fast, mobile-friendly and aesthetically attractive, but if the content is poorly structured, irrelevant or inaccurate, the whole thing will fall down.
Despite the rise of the social side of intranets, the primary role in most organisations is to form a centralised portal where people can access company information and files that they need to do their job.
Visual design and content: one cannot be effective without the other, and a disparity between the two will cause problems.
It sounds simple, but too often information is out of date, impossible to find or just plain inaccurate. It takes careful planning and management to get it right.
So, you need to get your content right and make it useful.
First things first, you need to take stock of what you already have. This will involve performing a full content audit: sifting through your content, working out what you have, what you’re missing and beginning to think about how it should be structured. It’s no good blindly copying documents and text over from your old system – inevitably, irrelevant content will find its way onto the new system and the same problems will remain.
It’s not exciting, it is time intensive, and it takes careful planning to get right – but it’s essential to do it. Luckily there are plenty of resources out there; here are our favourites:
- How to Conduct A Content Audit – A good introduction from UX Mastery.
- The Content Inventory Is Your Friend – Brain Traffic makes the case for keeping a content inventory.
- Content Knowledge Is Power – A detailed overview of the process with links to good tools.
After you’ve revised what you have, you want to consider how you are going to organise your clean, freshly gleaned content. This involves planning and executing a coherent structure – we call this the information architecture. Your users need to be able find the content that they need to do their job, and it needs to be as intuitive as the interface around it.
This also includes thinking about keywords, tags and titles to ensure that your content performs well in search. You can map all this in a spreadsheet, a tool like Trello, or the humble post-it note works pretty well.
These articles are a good starting point:
- The Complete Beginners Guide to Information Architecture – UX Booth takes you through what IA is and how you should approach it.
- Card sorting for IA: A Beginners Guide – Smashing Magazine explores the power of the post-it note.
- 100+ Awesome UX Tools For UX Designers – UX Mastery has listed a lot of tools, but there are some gems in here.
Manage & Maintain
Now you’ve got your content in order, it’s time to devise a plan about how you’re going to keep it that way.
The number one complaint from companies that come to us is that their intranet is impossible to navigate. This is not because of the interface design, but because the content on it is out of date, irrelevant or duplicated.
You need to get three things right:
- Consistent: get your guidelines right (style, tone and voice) – it gets all your writers on the same page, writing in a consistent style.
- Up-to-date: regularly review content, put alerts on content that will go out of date.
- Useful: gather and review feedback, regularly review your analytics.
Here are a few articles we like on this topic:
- A year in the life of the GOV.UK content team – an inside look at a real-life content team, from the Gov.uk blog.
- The Mailchimp Style Guide – inspiration for approaching your internal style guide.
- “Content Strategy for the Web” – the book on all things content strategy.