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10 ways employee intranets clutter and break
Image by Anahi Alanis

7 min read

10 ways employee intranets clutter and break

Employee intranets help people at work stay informed and find what they need. But they become cluttered and stale, such that employees avoid them.

Employee intranets help people at work stay informed and find what they need. But they become cluttered and stale, such that employees avoid them. There are 10 reasons for this—all of which Jostle's platform is designed to solve.

 

Table of Contents

Problem 1: Intranets are just internal websites

Problem 2: You must promote your new content

Problem 3: Information is dispersed (page proliferation)

Problem 4: Department sites reinforce workplace silos

Problem 5: Old pages look like new pages

Problem 6: Time-sensitive content is hard to manage

Problem 7: Intranet pages comprise generic widgets

Problem 8: Intranet pages are designed by amateurs

Problem 9: Navigation becomes complex and broken

Problem 10: Sprawling websites don’t work on a phone

 

Problem 1: Intranets are just internal websites

Intranets are structured as websites. Making a website work for internal purposes is much more challenging than making a public website for your company:

Aspect

External website

Internal website

Purpose

Generate leads

Help employees engage

User persona

Target buyers

Full diversity of people and roles across your company

Journey

Focused on getting prospects to buy

Serve many use cases, across every company department

Rate of change

Only needs to be updated when your offer, or the world, changes

Must deal with a relentless stream of new information, initiatives, and processes

Historic information

Deleted

Accumulates

 

Delivering a great employee experience using a website approach is difficult by its very nature. Yet “modern intranet” platforms are fundamentally website page-building tools.

 

Problem 2: You must promote your new content

When you add new content to a website, you either create a new page or update an existing one. The problem is, no one knows that this update has happened.

You must promote your new content, or no one’s going to see it. Content promotion equates to spamming—it creates unwanted noise and distraction. That’s particularly troublesome at work, where everyone is busy, and you're trying to help people focus on what matters to them.

Intranets serve every department, each with their own content creators. Things can get very noisy when content creators start competing for attention, each trying to promote their content via feeds, carousels, and email notifications.

A key goal for a great intranet is to reduce internal email. Yet intranets make heavy use of email to deliver notifications so that employees can find newly posted content. That’s counterproductive.

 

Problem 3: Information is dispersed (page proliferation)

Effective targeting of content is key to reducing noise and providing focus. On intranet sites, targeting happens at the page level. The better intranets let you tie this to the dynamic membership of a group, such as a department or location.

Problem is, when you target at the page level, you’re going to end up with lots of pages. HR, for example, is going to need pages with various audience targets:

Page

Audience

HR team

HR team members

HR leadership

Senior HR leaders

HR worldwide

Everyone

HR (USA)

HR team + US employees

HR (Brazil)

HR team + Brazil employees

HR Canada

HR team + Canadian employees

Initiative A

North American employees

Initiative B

Everyone

 

In reality, a number of the destinations listed above will end up being split up into multiple pages. In effect, each department is going to end up with its own site (an intranet within an intranet).

The net, net of this is that when you want to find something, it becomes an easter egg hunt. What if, for example, you want to find the paid days off (statutory or bank holidays) for your location? Is that page linked in under HR (USA) somewhere? Or is it under HR worldwide?

When pages proliferate like this, you can no longer browse to find what you need. So you turn to search, which returns 9 pages listing “paid holidays” without any context as to which might be the one that is current and applicable to you.

This problem of page proliferation on intranets can’t be understated. On intranets, every department is going to need a new page for every initiative. Even small companies quickly end up with 100+ pages for users to sift through. Philips has consistently applied good focus and governance on their intranet; Dennis Agusi, Director Communication Channels, explains here how they slimmed down their intranet from more than 123,000 pages to fewer than 5,000. That’s impressive, but 5,000 is still a lot of pages for employees to hunt through.

 

Problem 4: Department sites reinforce workplace silos

Normally on an intranet, each department ends up with its own site within it. Each of these sites becomes its own information silo, which is quite problematic since one of the key reasons companies invest in an intranet is to bridge those very silos.

 

Problem 5: Old pages look like new pages

On intranets, each new initiative results in a new page. Problem is, this page looks just like the pages for previous initiatives. You can’t tell if a page is current and up to date when you encounter it, particularly since you will often see pages that are clearly dated.

The way to fix this is to delete old pages, but this brings its own problems: 1) it requires diligent site management to actually do this and 2) often those old pages have historic value, so you’re reluctant to delete them.

 

Problem 6: Time-sensitive content is hard to manage

Pages normally relate to topics that persist over time. That’s problematic when you want to share time-sensitive information, such as an event or poll.

When you add an event or poll, you need to re-promote that page, and you likely need to place them at the top of that page. When the event or poll is over, you likely want to keep the event or poll results for their historical value--but you no longer want them at the top of the page. If doing that poll or event is a monthly occurrence, this quickly becomes a mess. From both a page administration and user experience perspective, this is challenging.

 

Problem 7: Intranet pages comprise generic widgets

Intranets are website building tools where each page is constructed from a library of standard widgets. That’s good, but it means that you cannot facilitate specific functions in a purposeful way.

For example, you can add a simple calendar widget to a page, but it doesn’t provide the depth of function and user experience that a dedicated calendar site would. That calendar widget has to be simple since it needs to work entirely on its own (so that it can be placed anywhere on any page by anyone). It cannot be part of a more extended and crafted user experience.

 

Problem 8: Intranet pages are designed by amateurs

On intranets, many individuals from various departments create pages. When they do so, they’re designing the user experience for that page. But that’s something they’re not experts at and each will do it in their own way. Mary will choose file widget A and place it at the top; Joe will choose file widget B and place it at the bottom. That makes intranets inherently hard to use.

 

Problem 9: Navigation becomes complex and broken

Intranets end up with complex navigation, partly because each departmental site within them needs its own top-level navigation. And with multiple people adding pages, the page creator doesn’t always understand the existing taxonomy, and either places their page in the wrong place, or unnecessarily expands the navigation to accommodate their new page.

This inherently complex navigation, combined with the need to promote new pages, results in Home Page links being heavily used. Over time these links accumulate and break.

 

Problem 10: Sprawling websites don’t work on a phone

For people on the move or working in the field, using your intranet from your phone is important. But with its sprawl of pages, you’re pretty much limited to perusing the main feed and clicking through to pages being currently promoted. Browsing and searching for things you need are frustrating experiences.

 

Conclusion

Jostle’s platform takes a different approach. While employee intranets overwhelm and frustrate people, we do the opposite. Instead, Jostle helps organizations enable, engage, and celebrate people, anytime, anywhere.  

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See how Jostle solves the problems intranets can’t. 

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Read more by
Brad Palmer

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