Intranet Branding: The Forgotten Focus

The UX and UI designers at 2Plus2 explain how a strong branding identity makes for a great employee intranet.

By Cathy Dew

A good intranet is a coming together of the best practices of skilled intranet UX and UI designers and a company’s internal departments, which typically include one or more representatives from IT, HR, and the executive suite. And if a good intranet is what you are willing to settle for, this all you will need.

If you’re after a GREAT intranet, however, you are going need something more. If you want a tool that will excite your users, bring your employees together, and become a catalyst for team building and positive user experience, you are going to need something more.  

You are going to need a strong intranet branding identity. 

What is a Brand?

Branding in the intranet context is much misunderstood, in part because the word “brand” can mean so many different things in an abundance of different contexts.

I like Allan Dib’s definition: A brand is the personality of a business.

So when you are thinking of your intranet’s brand, think about what you want its personality to be. Then consider how to leverage your design to match this personality.

It’s good to start with the fundamentals, so ask yourself?

  • What will you name your intranet?  
  • What will its logo signify?
  • How does design communicate your intranet brand’s core values?

What’s in a Name?

You may be wondering if an intranet needs a name. But that’s like wondering if a community newspaper needs a masthead or if a community center needs a geographic reference. Obviously they do. How else would you know what to expect to read about inside the paper or where to you should go to gather for neighborhood events?

Your intranet needs an identity and users need a moniker for reference purposes. “Look for it on the intranet,” isn’t going to cut it.

So how do you match a name to your intranet personality?

Consider your intranet’s primary purpose. Is it to bring employees together as a team? If so, a name that conveys teambuilding—like synergy or co-op—might be part of your intranet name.

If you intranet’s primary purpose is to provide news and act as a resource for document retention and sharing, you might want to use, for example, the words “link” or “inside” to convey that the intranet is a mechanism for users to share insider information with each other.

Often, a company will want to incorporate their corporate identity into their intranet name. This is usually a good idea as long as the intranet name doesn’t become confused with the company’s external website.

Finally, a name should be easy to spell and pronounce. Don’t sacrifice clarity for the sake of cleverness. Branding is, first and foremost, a way to communicate your company’s personality and core values. Too much imagination can cause confusion. Simple is usually the way to go.

The online tech magazine Livewire, recently offered the following great examples of intranet names that, while fun and whimsical, adeptly convey their respective organization’s personalities:

  • Huluverse: the name given to the video streaming subscription service Hulu’s intranet
  • Fetch: this San Diego Humane Society’s intranet name says all you need to know
  • Pitstop and Glove Box, intranet names chosen by two different car dealerships, one in Scotland and the other in the US

With every one of these examples, you instantly get a feel for what these companies are about and what their intranets are for.

Leggo Your Company’s Logo

Sometimes a great intranet name is all you need, especially if it does a great job conveying your site’s purpose and personality.

But designing an intranet-specific logo can serve as a great complement to the name, if it’s done right. If you choose to create a site-specific logo, it should visually communicate the unique identity of your intranet brand and what it represents.

Using the company logo along with the intranet-specific name is a common practice, and usually works well. The key question to ask is whether or not the logo helps create the intranet’s unique employee-centric identity. It’s never a good idea to use the same company logo for the intranet logo without some kind of intranet-centric modification. This will only cause confusion with the company’s external website, defeating the whole purpose of providing your intranet with its own unique personality through branding.

For some examples of successful intranet logos, check out some of the logos used by NN/g Nielson Norman Group’s best intranets of 2018.

Don’t Overdo It

It is not necessary to give every section of your intranet its own catchy name in order to keep the brand concept running. Overbranding is actually a thing. Don’t do it.

Keep in mind that user experience has to be the overriding consideration, and making your users wonder what a particular menu item refers to is never a sign of a good UX. Instead, use references people understand. It’s perfectly fine to call the place to download human resources forms “HR forms.” Clarity is job one.

Good rule to follow: If your average intranet user cannot immediately recognize the purpose of an intranet section by its name, call it something else.

You also want to avoid using terms that are too trendy. You want a branding strategy that will stand the test of time, so your intranet is fresh and inviting not just at launch but also for years to come.

2Plus2: Your Branding Experts

The UX and UI designers at 2Plus2 have a deep background in corporate branding and graphic design for business. As intranet experts, we also understand the important role branding plays in getting your employee users on board, especially during launch.

We can work with you to make sure your intranet branding works with your company culture and for your employees. Call 2Plus2’s intranet design team at 510-652-7700 or contact us online. Initial consultations are free.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.