What makes an award winning intranet solution?

What is the magic formula that makes some intranets ‘award-winning’ and how do we translate this into a strategy for our clients?

We are fast approaching the submission date for this year’s Neilsen Norman Best Intranet Design Awards, aka, the Intranet Oscars. Each year the most innovative and modern global intranets are shortlisted and showcased in Neilsen Norman’s annual report and intranet teams across the globe are always striving to be part of it.

When looking back over the last few years of award winners, it’s become clear a lot has changed in the world of intranets. Not only has design moved on but also technology and in turn the capability within the sites. This sparked the question of how do these companies go about building an award winning intranet? What is the magic formula that makes these sites so successful and how have we translated this into a strategy for our future clients?

Unily is inspired by our award-winning solutions

As a Business Analyst at BrightStarr, the creators of the Unily solution, this is a huge topic for us and is part of the driving reason we created Unily. We believe that great user experience, combined with a robust platform and customer success services is an award winning combination, and we wanted this to be available to all of our clients.

But what experience led us to create this solution? What methodology have we followed in our custom solutions that has led to a number of Best Intranet Design Awards and defined how we handle every Unily project? Read more on intranet design here. 

Our award-winning custom intranet methodology

We have completed over 400 custom intranet projects, and through experience with a range of customers devised a proven methodology, I think this coupled with three main project considerations allows us to re-create our award winning projects again and again.

Firstly, we follow a process known as Kinetica that allows us to engage with the business in question, understand the vision, strategy and drivers. We then analyse our findings and prioritise the requirements in order to move into a design phase. At this point we develop a solution that will meet the needs of the business and look visually appealing. Our in house development team then build, test and deploy the intranet to complete the process.

However, this process is not enough to produce the best intranets, there’s more to it than that.

We feel there are three themes within each intranet project that cannot be ignored during the intranet re-design process.These are:


Each customer has their own culture and ways of working. The visual design, look and feel and user experience must take this into consideration and create a user experience that fits the behaviours of the employees. Without great user experience and a well thought-through design, a project is almost destined to fail. Even for organisations who believe functionality is the most important aspect of their project, without brilliant user experience to support, it’s unlikely they’ll see the adoption and engagement rates they’re hoping to see.


The next key focus area we see is capability. You need to understand what functionality is required within the intranet and these must be prioritised. Identify a vision and focus to drive you through this process. For example, is the intranet a communication portal? Is this a knowledge sharing platform? In the same way that user experience must back up functionality, if an intranet looks great but does not provide the required capability, employees will simply stop using it.


The technology platform is a major consideration as this will affect how you implement the design and capability elements. Take time to understand what you need from the technology, will you need to integrate with existing systems, what devices will it be accessed on? If you get this wrong it may restrict your intranet success but also halt you in the future.Overall, you must consider that each organisation is different. Some are driven by technology constraints, some are gaining buy in through look and feel and some are focused on functionality and providing business as usual capability.

How does this feed into what we’ve done with Unily?

Through over 400 custom intranet projects on SharePoint 2007 to Office 365, we’ve been able to learn a huge amount through the Kinetica process. All the information and intelligence we’ve garnered over the years in terms of Design, Capability and Technology has been fed into our work at Unily, with the goal to create a truly award-winning intranet available for any organization, in a significantly reduced timeframe.

And with Unily’s customer success programme, ongoing success is ensured with the latest design, capabilities and technologies constantly incorporated into the solution, influenced by our own innovation, a customer driven roadmap and changes in Microsoft enterprise technology.

On a final note as you perhaps begin your own award-winning intranet project, here a just a few of the things that we suggest you consider before embarking on your own journey.


If you'd like some more information on our award-winning intranet solutions - a history of our Nielsen Norman Awards can be found here. Why not get in touch with us to talk about how we can help you deliver an exceptional, award winning intranet for your organisation.

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Mark Sahal Head of Client Services

Mark leads the Project Management team as well as working to coordinate the Consulting, Support and Development team alongside Sam Hassani and Michael Draisey. Having studied Business and Finance in the late 90's, Mark embarked on a career in IT in 2001, working in various roles over 11 years and joining BrightStarr in 2012.

Mark successfully blends business and technical knowledge to deliver a balanced result that factors in the needs of the entire business. Mark has a passion for delivering outstanding service and building long term partnerships and lives in Surrey.

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