6 common mistakes to avoid when planning and building your intranet

Planning and building an intranet can be stressful particularly if it’s not something you’ve done before. In this blog we highlight 6 common mistakes often made and ways in which to avoid them to ensure your implementation is successful.

1. Trying to please everyone all of the time or in other words creating a cluttered homepage:

Often you want to make sure there’s something on the homepage for everyone, or all of the stakeholders are demanding a piece of the prime homepage real estate. But you can’t display content for everyone, all the time, without creating a cluttered and confusing homepage.

Your home page should be the well-manicured pathway leading people into the intranet. It should encourage and enable them to locate the content they need.

Display the most critical, relevant and fresh content on your homepage and provide ways to navigate to the rest. If you need to drive content to different departments or locations, you should consider creating different homepages for them.

2. Not considering how the users will use the search:

When you’re adding your pages of content do you think about how other people will searchfor it, or where it will appear in the search. Often pages with short titles, lack lustre summaries and few keywords are created, leading to pages that are difficult to find using the main search. Will everyone in your business know to search for a page called “Planning your Retirement” to find information about your pension scheme. Do your users refer to documents and processes by acronyms or nicknames?

Each page needs a descriptive title, summary, and keywords to help users find the information they need on your intranet. For really important pages, you could make the page a best bet!

3. Too many cooks or design by committee:

How do you decide the design of your intranet, do you hold design workshops and invite all the stakeholders? Or do you just include a few select people? Do you know who is ultimately responsible for approving the design?

Imagine the scenario: You’ve created a logo, a colour scheme, your amazing theme has been applied, you send out a screen shot to the stakeholders… then it starts, can you change the font on the top menu, can you make the widget headings a shade lighter, wait, it was better darker, change it back again.

Often once it is not until a design has been completed and applied that some stakeholders have visibility of it. This can mean that changes need to make to the design piecemeal, which can be time consuming and has been known to affect launch dates. So allow everyone input in the early design stages, but once you have decided on your design, stick to it. It might save you a few sleepless nights.

4. Underestimating the build time and launch in a rush:

Have you competed a content audit? Do you know how much content you need to add, does the content already exist or do you need to create it from scratch? How many content authors do you have, how much time do they have available to add the content.

In short, do you have enough time between now and your launch date to complete your build? When you factor in the entire buying and building process, the timeline can be long, even longer if you add in a proof of concept stage.

Imagine an Intranet Launch day, every one’s got an Intranet branded mug and pen, people have come in early to get sight of the new social intranet, they all log on and they look for… oh but it’s not there, you haven’t had time to add that particular page of content. You did add car parking information for one of the other offices though.

It’s important when planning your intranet project to be realistic about the amount of time it will take to add all your content. The amount of resource you have and if they have any other commitments is a significant consideration.

5. Not training everyone that should be trained:

If you have a lot of Content Authors, how do you ensure they all know how to add content, and if they are adding content are adding in the way you want? To make sure you arrange some training for them, but some don’t attend.

Often people who haven’t attended training create pages without icons, or leave out keywords, and often write pages with short titles and even shorter summaries. Leaving content that’s difficult to find and is as a consequence underused.

So good training an essential for your Content Authors to understand the importance and carefully considering all the options available to them when they are adding content, and understanding that just getting the page on isn’t the only consideration.

And then there’s the Content Managers… and the Site Administrators…

6. Having unclear ownership and governance:

Who owns your intranet? Without proper ownership, management and standards for your intranet, it will surely fail. How the site is managed and governed needs to be clearly defined during the planning process and then must be supported by senior management.

Without ownership and governance, no-one will take responsibility for your intranet, and other work will begin to take precedence over keeping the intranet up to date and over time it will be become unloved and unused. So steering committees, executive champions, standards and guidelines are all essential components of an overall governance model, which will keep your intranet going strong.