UX and Change: Intranet Design for the Present and the Future

Good UX intranet design requires information architecture that looks to content needs in the present and the future.

By Cathy Dew

When he declared that “the only thing that is constant is change,” Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus had no idea what an understatement that would be for the 21st century Information Architect.

When it comes to developing intranets and other consumer- or employee-facing communications tools like websites and mobile apps, change is about the only thing any designer can absolutely count on.

Just look at how many people actively access the Internet now compared to 10 years ago. In December 2007, 20 percent of the world’s population used the Internet. By December 2017, that percentage had jumped to 54.4. That’s over 4 billion users worldwide..

Remote workers change the intranet landscape.

Aligning with this exponential increase in Internet use is a meteoric rise in the number of people working remotely. Forty-three percent of American workers spend at least part of their week working offsite, and companies are realizing that remote workers are as (or more) productive than their in-office counterparts.

Remote workers are accessing their company intranets in home offices, coffee shops, and airports from laptops, smart phones, and tablets. The days of workers planted eight hours a day, 40 hours a week at their desktop office workstations are coming to an end.

Intranet designs that failed to incorporate mechanisms for remote workers to collaborate with colleagues and access information from anywhere are now obsolete and in need of either a revamp or an entirely new design.

Designing an intranet for today, tomorrow and beyond

So how do you design an intranet that will provide a great User Experience for employees today and ten years from now?

No, you don’t need a crystal ball (although it certainly couldn’t hurt).

First, realize that even though it’s important to keep the current needs of your employees top of mind, you also need to consider what these employees, as well as your next generation of workers, might need weeks, months, and years down the line.

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The days of workers planted 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week at desktop workstations are over.

It all starts with content.

The one aspect of the future that you can be sure of is that your content needs will increase and evolve.

Start by looking at content management from the perspective of a seasoned Information Architect and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you anticipate the volume of content in existing categories to expand over time? If so, can you isolate the categories most ripe for expansion? And while you’re at it, can you designate certain categories as likely to become less necessary or even obsolete over time?
  • Is your organization likely to grow or expand? In what ways? Could employees’ fields of interest change over time in a way that could necessitate new categories of information not yet conceived?
  • Can you see different types of content being required for new or existing categories? If you are primarily communicating via text and focusing on document sharing and storage now, is there a possibility that video, animation, podcasts, or even virtual reality could be a part of the site’s future?

Information Architects embrace change.

Designing an intranet that embraces change is a key component of Information Architecture. The IA experts at 2Plus2 are can help you work through the specific issues surrounding change that effect your organization’s intranet. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

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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.
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