Every intranet eventually gets to the point where small tweaks and adjustments are no longer enough, and it's time for a larger scale redesign project.
When to Redesign
Hopefully your intranet has been continually improved and enhanced, but even with frequent updates, there typically comes a point when an overhaul is necessary. There's no straightforward answer on when it's time to redesign your intranet, but the main drivers for a redesign are often:
- users have difficulty accomplishing basic tasks or finding items - it's inefficient
- the design feels 'tired'
- general acknowledgment that the intranet is fairly useless
Scope of Redesign
An intranet redesign project can be approached in different ways. Key considerations are the current state of your intranet and the resources available (i.e. primarily people and time) for the project.
A redesign may involve any or all of the following components, which are discussed in further detail later in this article:
- Design - may include any of the visual elements of the site, such as background color, font, widget style, header style, images, font color, etc.
- Home Page - may include widget types, layout of widgets, presentation of news, quick links, images
- Navigation - may include position of navigation on site, main category labels, megamenu category groupings or labels, items listed in navigation
- Content - may include editing, enhancement, addition, or deletion of intranet content
Regardless of the scope of the redesign, we recommend putting time and effort into the Assess stage for the clearest understanding of priorities and the most efficient Redesign stage. Redesigning an intranet while keeping the current intranet working and up-to-date is a challenge, so the faster you get through the actual redesign the better your chance of continued accuracy and project success.
Similar to the initial build of an intranet, a redesign needs a project team to share the load and diversify inputs. Having a team in place will also likely shorten the project timeline and lead to a more successful project. Learn more about project teams in the Build Your Intranet article.
Once you've determined the scope of the redesign, the next most important factor in determining the extent of the project is the intranet content. Both the amount of content (i.e. site pages, forms, uploaded files) as well as the state of the content (i.e. actively maintained, needing updating, gaps in content needed) will have a strong impact on the resources required as well as the project timeline.
Intranet redesign projects have an increased likelihood of success if time and effort are put into preparation rather than just diving directly into the redesign.
You've probably already been gathering input without realizing it, in the form of casual comments or emails from users as well as your own experiences. This feedback from the experts - your users - is a starting point to help determine what is and isn't working. Other methods include:
Survey - should consist of mainly rating-type questions, as well as a few open-ended questions to dig deep. Keep the questions general enough so you can re-use them later for comparison to measure the impact of the new site. Sample questions include:
- The intranet helps me do my job more efficiently.
- The intranet reflects our corporate culture.
- The home page gives me organizational updates at a glance.
- The intranet helps me connect with coworkers.
- (open-ended) What would you like to be able to do on the intranet that you currently cannot?
- Focus groups or interviews - having in-depth discussions about intranet shortcomings or strengths can add depth to the project direction.
To help inform content, navigation, and design decisions, you need to know how the intranet is being used. Statistics will give you factual information rather than users' subjective recollection of their actions.
Questions you can explore include:
- What is the most popular App and Page on the intranet over the past year? Least popular?
- Which department uses the intranet the most? The least? Talk to their staff to explore the reasons why.
Working on a project involving reorganization - whether a garage or an intranet - is easier when you first clear out things that aren't needed or wanted. Ideally, this task can be shared by project team members, so people are looking at content which is in their area of responsibility and more familiar to them.
To get a sense of scope, visit the intranet Documents area(s) and have a quick look at folders and items. Anything that looks out of place or out-of-date? Click into the Admin section and review all of the Apps and Pages listed under each Site; are there any with a very low number of visits?
If you have the clear authority, delete when you see content that has no reason to exist, or delegate cleanup to those who have the authority.
From the Intranet Connections Blog
Once you get past the Assess stage, it's time for the actual redesign. Redesigning an intranet is similar to a new build, but with the advantage of knowing the software. Review the 'Build Your Intranet' article to assist, in particular:
To kickstart the redesign, the project team should ideally set goals for the project, so there are guiding principles to steer the project as well as a timeline.
A key consideration of a redesign is how closely you want a new site to echo the old site (i.e. what's the degree of change). Users have created habits over the years to do things a certain way, and a redesign may force those habits to change, especially if navigation is altered. How adaptable are your users? How much change are they likely to tolerate? Factor that in to your redesign plans.
In addition to content streamlining, as mentioned earlier in this article, most redesigns will involve some or all of the following:
A. Visual Redesign
Once of the most impactful ways to revitalize an intranet, a visual redesign includes the style elements on the page, primarily font, colors, and images. Learn more in our Design Tab: Advanced Theme Editor article, and get inspired with the Design Examples on our website. Note that your team may want to create a visual identity guide at this point, so that headings, colors, etc. are used consistently throughout the site.
B. Home Page Redesign
Home pages tend to evolve over time as multiple requests move the page away from its intended purpose. Is your home page helping you achieve the goals of the intranet? Is it engaging, informative, and continually fresh? Is content prioritized and grouped?
C. Navigation Enhancement
Similar to the home page, site navigation tends to 'devolve' over time as many requests and additions take it further from its intended purpose. Effective navigation is absolutely essential to a properly functioning intranet. Work with users using techniques such as card sorting to create user-friendly navigation. Learn more in our Create Navigation article.
D. Content Enhancement
There are two aspects of enhancing intranet content (assuming you've already cleaned up content in the Assess step). Firstly, is there existing content which needs to be rewritten or enhanced with additional wording or layout (e.g. headings)? Ideally, you want content which feels consistent in tone and presentation across the site, and is understandable at a glance by users.
Secondly, are there unmet needs of staff or the organization? For example, do you need more internal communication tools or ways for staff to connect? Review the available options in the App Overview article and the Widget Overview article - are there features you'd like to add?
Step-by-Step Rebuild Process
You'll want to work on your intranet redesign away from users so you have the freedom to make changes without impacting staff. Typically this is done using either an existing test environment or a staging server set up for the redesign. Learn more about Test Environment Setup.
Redesigning an intranet can get complicated, as you're reworking a site in parallel with it continuing to be used. There are two main approaches to a redesign (though elements of either can be combined), and your project team will have to determine which is the most appropriate for your organization's situation.
Mirror Existing Intranet and Re-Route Servers at Relaunch
This approach makes a copy of the intranet on which all changes are made, then points users to this new intranet. The challenge with this method is to maintain content on two tandem sites as the redesign is occurring. The process is as follows:
- Copy the live intranet site to a test/staging server (these may be separate or the same).
- Work on the clean up and redesign on this server.
- As content is added to production, add it to staging as well (i.e. so new content will be on both the current and new sites); message to users that a redesign is occurring and they should not delete content as it won't be deleted from the staging server. You could also try to enforce a content moratorium on the live intranet (i.e. nothing added or deleted) but the likelihood of success will depend on your users.
- Once happy with the content, features, and design of the new intranet on the staging server, either replace over the live version, or change production to be the staging server and re-route users to the new server. If you have questions about this process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PROs: more streamlined and efficient to make all changes in one place
CONs: all form-based items (e.g. online forms, Company Store) will not include submissions made to the live site during the redesign process, IT assistance will be required to point users to new intranet site, greater risk of getting test and production sites out of sync as changes are made to the live site which aren't captured on the test site
Clean Up Existing Intranet, Test Features/Navigation/Design on Staging Server, Recreate on Existing Intranet
This approach involves some changes on the live site and some changes on the test site. Changes on the test site must be replicated on the live site.
- Working on the existing intranet, clean up all unwanted and outdated content.
- Mirror your existing intranet on your test site so you get an exact copy (note, this will overwrite all existing content on your test site).
- Working on your test site, redesign all visual elements - document your changes for easier re-creation on the live site later.
- Create new features you want added to the intranet. Either do this on the test site and recreate later on the live site, or on the live site but don't include in the navigation until ready to launch (note that features could be found by search, though this is typically low impact).
- Put the site in maintenance mode (i.e. Admin > Security > Maintenance Lockout) during a reduced intranet traffic time (e.g. Friday afternoon), implement all outstanding changes such as design and navigation on the live site, and do quality checks before re-allowing intranet access.
PROs: easier to achieve without IT assistance, less risk of missing content added or edited during the redesign process
CONs: no content backup, have to duplicate efforts on staging and live sites, have to be organized to ensure all changes are made in correct locations
Having a shiny new work tool is exciting, so relaunch the intranet with some fanfare! Add a news story highlighting the changes, or run a fun contest to re-engage employees. Use tips from the Launch Your Intranet article to help guide your actions.
You may also want to create resources for staff with visual highlights of what's changed, and schedule quick training sessions or Lunch & Learns to actively show staff how to use the redesigned site. Even if the intranet feels similar to you, change can be scary for people and a bit of hand-holding can go a long way towards acceptance and success.
In addition, a redesign often means that changes to internal instructional materials or to your governance manual details or visuals may be required.
As a final step, make sure to take a few screenshots of the 'old' intranet for posterity's sake, so you have an internal history of how far you've come!
Redesign Success Examples
Inspiration for a redesign project can come from seeing the successes of others.
Sunova Credit Union is an excellent example of how an intranet site can be redesigned and completely refreshed. Three brands had to be combined into one cohesive intranet site. Through small group work, card sorting exercises, and reviewing existing left navigation throughout the site, they developed a new top navigation structure with megamenus. They also worked with an internal graphic designer to come up with fabulous new design which is linked to their public brand.
Good at first glance (i.e. clean design), the intranet doesn't hold up on closer examination. Lots of information on the left which isn't prioritized, a home page that requires a fair bit of scrolling, and a top piece of page real estate taken up by the user's profile.
Wow, what a huge difference! The new intranet has personality and amazing visual interest, between the colors, graphics, and image. The top navigation and the left quick links categorize information so users can get where they need to go much faster. There are two home page news feeds - one for more formal organizational news, and one for the fun stuff. This is a site you want to visit! Well done.
Watch our brief redesign video, which shows you how to quickly change key visual elements of your intranet.