No one reads the intranet in the same way they curl up with a good book.
Intranet content consumption is purpose-driven and goal-oriented. Your employees have mountains of information to move and they are pressed for time. So it’s critical that your intranet content is:
This article focuses on creating useful content.
Useful intranet content has a PURPOSE
Useful intranet content is:
- Focused on specific tasks. The content addresses a specific need of a group of employees
- Clear and simple. The content is stripped of superfluous material, presented in simple language, and makes a clear point.
Some intranets contain content that lacks purpose. Asking “why does this page exist?” can reveal “vanity” content that has little purpose to users. For example, I’ve seen a department landing page that says, “This is the Accounting Departments home on the intranet” and proceeds to give an obvious description of Accounting’s function within the organization.
Conversely, asking “why does this page exist?” can surface the core tasks related to a page of content and help you understand users’ reasons for coming to the page at all.
To understand why a page exists, you can ask these more specific questions:
- Who is the indended audience?
- What tasks are people trying to complete when they are on this page?
- What information do people need to accomplish those tasks?
- What related tasks might people need to accomplish?
- What related information might people need links to?
All of these questions help hone in on the purpose of the page. They’ll highlight information you may not have originally thought needs to be on the page and identify the critical content. This effort will also highlight extraneous content you can jettison.
The 80/20 rule for intranet content
Often there is a small amount of information that addresses the needs of most users. A few dates, forms and links may answer 80% of questions users have when visiting a page.
For example, an HR page about annual performance review forms could have a letter from the CEO about the great importance of a performance culture. It could have a note about why the new form is different from last year’s form. It could have step-by-step instructions. But what do most people want to know? “When is the form due and how do I access it?”
So the 80/20 rule is this: What 20% of information that you could put on this page will address 80% or more of users’ needs?
Once you’ve identified the important 20% of information, you can put it at the top of the page and make it easy to scan for and spot. This will help users get what they need quickly and easily. You can still put the other content on the page, but lower down.
A common mindset is to put “important messages” at the top of the page so users have to read them before completing tasks. This approach feels like punishment. It belies a stakeholder-focused approach rather than a priority on end-users’ needs. It slows down your users, confuses people, and reduces employee satisfaction with the intranet and with their work in general.
Checklist for useful intranet content
Run through this quick mental checklist to confirm that a particular page is useful:
- What is this page’s purpose? Is it clear?
- What tasks is a user trying to accomplish when they visit this page? Are those tasks supported?
- Is the most important 20% of the content obvious?
Good content doesn’t just happen
Creating useful intranet content requires time, focus, and some knowledge of best practices. But more than anything else, it requires a user-centered way of thinking about content.
Looking for a clear and simple path to a new intranet? Download our free Intranet Buyers Workbook to learn 10 key steps in evaluating intranet solutions.