The early days of intranets and the emergence of UX
When intranets first arrived on the scene in the mid-1990s, solutions left a lot to be desired. Most platforms were rudimentary, static websites that served primarily as document repositories. Due to the high level of technological competency associated with maintenance, many projects were managed entirely by IT, with little to no room for input from end-users.
Around the same time, the concept of user experience began to emerge. Don Norman, a co-founder at Nielsen Norman group, was one of the first to mention the term, in a paper published in 1995. In the years that followed, the International Organization for Standardization would come to define user experience as:
"A person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service."
Consumer tech plants the seeds for change
From social networking to smartphones, digital innovation rapidly accelerated over the last two decades. On the consumer side, savvy leaders turned to cutting-edge capabilities to optimize the customer journey.
To understand the powerful role that next-generation technology plays in enhancing the consumer experience, look no further than Amazon. Much of the e-commerce giant's unprecedented rise comes back to its commitment to creating a seamless purchasing journey. Through Google-like search abilities, recommender systems, and on-demand services, Amazon cultivates top-tier interactions from start to finish.
While personalized products and instant gratification became hallmarks of digital consumer experiences, workplace technology was initially slow to evolve. Deloitte's survey found that just 38% of workers reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied with workplace tools. The same research indicated that enterprises that went the extra mile for their employees reaped significant pay-offs, including a 12% greater consumer satisfaction rate and higher revenue growth.
The benefits of UX in the employee experience age
After years in the background, employee experience is finally taking the limelight. 81% of global firms now count the term as a dominant topic of discussion amongst leadership executives. As a result, many enterprises are reassessing their workplace technology to ensure employees' digital experiences match what they've grown accustomed to as consumers.
By focusing on good UX when launching and upgrading workplace technology, enterprises enjoy several key benefits. Output levels soar because navigation is more intuitive and search time drops. Simultaneously, communication improves through content targeting and embedded social functionality.
Flight Centre — Nielsen Norman Best Intranet 2019
Flight Centre is one of the world’s largest and most successful independent travel retailers. Download the case study and discover the secret behind their award-winning intranet.
Turning to user-centered design to improve UX
Without a strong UX, end-users often fail to take full advantage of digital workplace technology. Many leaders struggle to crack the code for good UX, but it comes down to something deceptively simple: finding out what end-users want and recreating it.
Instead of making an educated guess about what employees might look for in an intranet platform, leaders can utilize user-centered design (UCD) to create the kind of experience end-users desire. UCD is a collection of processes that put user preferences at the forefront throughout product design and development. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, there are four distinct principles:
#1. Understand the context in which users will utilize a system
#2. Identify and specify user requirements
#3. Design a solution per user requirements
#4. Evaluate how a platform is performing based on these requirements
3 takeaways to improve your intranet UX
Applying UCD principles to your intranet project will pave the way for a best-in-breed UX. But what can leaders do to put these practices into action? Consider the following takeaways:
#1. Listen to your end-users
The only way to find out what your employees are looking for in an intranet platform is by asking them. UCD is about collecting deep insights on users' habits, from their vision of what the solution should look like to the features they care about most. Use input from focus groups, questionnaires, and interviews to create an informed platform vision based on employees' requests.
#2. Bring in intel from every department
Launching a new intranet is far from a one-person mission. With project goals, employee personas, and feedback in hand, approach the design process collaboratively. Turn to internal comms to devise compelling messaging strategies, put HR in control of your onboarding site, and tap IT for ongoing expertise and support. As an iterative process, UCD is only achieved when teams come together to troubleshoot and innovate.
#3. Keep the feedback wheel turning
Opportunities for employee input shouldn't stop the day your intranet launches. UCD is a cyclical process; leaders should continuously monitor how their platform is performing, devise new solutions, and evaluate how they are received. To encourage employees to share their insights, regularly send out pulse surveys, and include a feedback form on your intranet's homepage. Utilize analytics such as intranet usage rates, social commenting and reactions, and adoption trends to supplement employee feedback during evaluation processes.
Launch your intranet with best-in-class UX
By prioritizing UX during your company intranet's design and launch, leaders can encourage employees to make the most of their new platform from the start. If you are looking to debut a solution with Unily's award-winning UX, get in touch with our digital workplace experts.