SharePoint Platform – Soft design considerations

Internet wearing ”Intranet skin”

Sometimes words don’t mean the same, however every once in a while, they do. In this case I’d say that intranet and internet are the same, or at least they should be the same.

For some reason people regard the intranet as a completely different technology, a completely different world – when in fact they are very closely related! People implementing intranets are not really looking at all the experiences gathered from the internet 10 years back. For some reason people designing intranets are insisting on reinventing the wheel – when they are designing their intranet solution.
They are still designing long chains of nested clicking about to find content. They are still pretending to know exactly what the end users want to look at – all of them – with just one page!

They insist that whatever they thought of, is the right thing for the user. Typically designs are made static, with high costs in order to change it. Users are not allowed to manage their own stuff, their own sites, their own colors. – And they don’t even pay for it!

All right, what have we actually learned from the internet so far that could or should be implemented in the intranet.

1: Financing – One of the driving factors of the internet is that anyone could post anything, anywhere, in any way they like (at least until someone decided they couldn’t). Usually, and I’m not saying all the time, but a lot of times intranets are implemented as a single solution that a single entity is paying for. It becomes a large expense for that entity, which assumes all responsibility and is also considered the driving factor for the solution.

Intranets are usually a web service, each page representing parts of an entity within your organization. Be strong in your implementation and make sure anyone, can do anything within your intranet. Consider it a joint-stock company, you pay to get in.

Bottom-line: there is a reason that basically every company has a web page.

2: Implementation – The internet is not created by one person, one department, one organization. It was created by many. There are still expert organizations maintaining it, but unlimited amounts of users. Just remember that not everybody has the same ambitions, skill level or requirements.

3: Navigation – The internet changed completely with the invention of search engines. People no longer typed in www addresses. They were no longer forced to navigate and click to find it. No, they opened their favorite search engine and 7 seconds later they got the information they were looking for, and related objects they didn’t even know they needed..

Usually tons of time is spent designing and implementing a beautiful navigation. When time should be spent on optimizing search.

4: Usage – When are your users using the internet and when are they using the intranet?  This question should raise enough questions and answers to keep your intranet, I mean internet, solution running the next few years 🙂

The above is somewhat oversimplified, however it does hold a grain of truth. Not every scenario can be set up so simply, not every implementation is so straight forward. However keep the above in mind when you’re buying, implementing or designing the next intranet solution and you should get some wheels of steel for free.

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One comment

  1. Back in the mid 90’s, me and 2 others did our examination paper. It was an Intranet in large danish insurance company, and one of the first things we came up with, was this sentence: “Intranet is simpy Internet in a bottle” and it still is, in fact today, with the existing tools, you can (and as I see it, should) combine both.

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