The importance of good graphic design – Planning your new intranet

In our sixth video, John explains four reaons why visual design is so important to intranet success and employee engagement (and trust). Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

John Scott, UX Director
+ 44 20 7471 8500 | [email protected] | LinkedIn

Boursin home page v2There are some successful intranets out there that are not particularly attractive, but they work, they do the job, they are fit for purpose. There are other intranets which are very pretty, but they’re not successful, they don’t achieve their objectives.

So does this mean that graphic design isn’t important on intranets? Actually we really think it is important, and sometimes it can even be a deciding factor.

Why is graphic design an important part of an intranet? There are four reasons:

1) Corporate identity – Even though the intranet is internal facing it should still feel part of the brand to employees. The company should be emitting its corporate values both internally and externally, otherwise the employees won’t identify with them.

2) Trust – When employees use the intranet, and the first thing they see is good design, then they are more likely to assume that other aspects of the intranet will meet the same standards. If however they see poor design, then they are more than likely to assume that the content, the functionality, and the usability of the intranet will be equally poor.

3) Clarity of message – Decorative but purposeless design can distract people from the message that’s being communicated. Instead there should be an emphasis on design that aids the communication of the core message. Design can be used to promote the importance of certain content but also to downplay others.

4) Usability – Just as unnecessary design can add noise to the communication, it can also adversely affect the usability of an intranet. As an example, using large scale graphics can dramatically increase page load times, this is a massive factor for usability on mobile devices. Often the quest for making things unique or different can also cause us to break usability conventions.

Jagua Land Rover mobile devicesThe graphic design is always a factor, even on the most functional of intranets. However, depending on the audience and the objectives of an intranet, it can be a decisive factor in its success.

But take a look at our recent designs to see the results we create for clients.

View Joe’s video: Out-of-the-box SharePoint and customisation.
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Intranet metrics and KPIs only measure what you mean to act upon

Volt meterStatistics can help you understand how people use your intranet, and whether you manage a massive SharePoint solution or a smaller intranet CMS, you will want to measure the right things so that you can optimise the intranet experience. Here are six major measurements to track and ten further ideas.

What to measure on your intranet

Tasks / workflows completed

Your intranet should help people get things done. Monitoring task initiation vs task completion could help you find a bad process that needs streamlining. Monitoring your workflows will show what people actually do through the year. SharePoint offers powerful workflows, but all modern intranet platforms should support business processes. If youre savvy, youll tie tasks to business outcomes, and then report the figures and the business impact. Self-service saves time and money.


Can you monitor how many profiles are 75%+ complete? (Think, LinkedIn.) Can you count how many have decent profile pictures? In a pinch, this can be a dirty indicator of intranet engagement. People who avoid making their profile their own may be disengaged, or not realise what the intranet / ESN is capable of (e.g. the benefits of networking and skill discovery).


A website with a million visitors can still fail if those visitors dont do what the stakeholders need and expect. Eyeballs do not auto-transform into custom, as we learnt in the 90s. Your intranet must support the aims of your organisation, and should support workflows / processes, knowledge management, collaboration, communication, and community. Set goals for all the things you need employees to do, and monitor the stats so you can optimise the navigation routes, workflows, instructions, and experience. A goal could be spent 90 seconds on our How to Book Travel page. This is a specific goal because its not a mere visit when a person doesnt read the page, and because learning how to book travel should reduce the number of calls to the HR helpdesk / Office Manager. A higher value goal might be creation of / online request for new team site / project site.


Track how many different people have contributed to the intranet this month. If your governance is very centralised and strict you might only have a dozen approved content contributors, so youre using your intranet as an old-fashioned broadcast tool. If you have modern governance or a social intranet, tracking how many different people contribute will indicate whether people see the intranet as an easy platform, or whether they prefer emailing documents to each other and using network drives instead of team sites. Those who contribute always value the intranet higher than those who only consume.


Track the number of contributions / updates to the intranet. Beware of document dumping when a project manager decides to move hundreds of files from the network drive to the intranet, or when HR update a hundred policies with new branding. Try to look at intranet pages which are the backbone of any web (nobody wishes Wikipedia was made up of PDFs).

Page views

Youll know by now that simply counting total page views tells you nothing about the quality of the intranet. Even reporting on one specific page (todays news, the H&S landing page, the CEOs blog) doesnt quite indicate if the page was relevant, useful, or valued. But low hits might be a cause for concern, so its not like anyone is going to disregard views entirely. Fewer page views (over a section, or the whole intranet) might indicate successful information finding, but then again Andrew Wright uses page views and time spent on the intranet as a correlate for success. Its a debate worth having within your team.

Try to segment intranet usage / page views by department / office / location / hierarchy. Is there a reason why IT doesnt use the intranet at all? (Answer: yes, they use their own private SharePoint installation.) Find team sites / offices (etc.) that are very active on the intranet and find out what drives their success  share their story and best practices. Find team sites / departments that havent adopted the intranet and see what support they need (probably training).

More intranet stats

  • References / citations / back-links of important content. Content fulfils a need if people use it.
  • Shares. Do people help colleagues find the good stuff through integrated social features or an ESN (Enterprise Social Network) layer?systems.
  • Comments, feedback, and ratings. Comments and feedback can be qualitatively very valuable. There are problems with star rating
  • Unique log-ins per day. Segment by department, location etc.
  • Peak times for use. If people log on at 9am but your comms was published at 9:30 then youre missing the boat.
  • Speed of intranet. Work with IT to monitor loading times and performance.
  • Mobile log-ins. Do you allow some kind of access on supplied or personal mobile devices? What do mobile users want in comparison to desktop users?
  • Search terms. Are people searching? Are they finding?
  • Discussion forums. Are they used, or poorly set-up graveyards?
  • Reduction of email or smaller shared drive storage. Ask IT to get involved with driving duplication and costs down.

The word intranet is a big word, and it shouldnt only refer to your intranet platform / CMS. Keep in mind the separate but integrated systems, like the enterprise social network, that makes up ‘the intranet experience’. People dont care if the room booking system is a separate application if its in the browser then its part of the intranet landscape. Decide what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to highlight to stakeholders, so that they judge the right things. Dont simply hand over scores of stats and graphs, use KPIs to help less-interested people understand whats going on. (Review your KPI usefulness every six months.)

Monitoring the stats will help you come to an understanding of how people currently use the intranet, but only if you can interpret the numbers with appropriate context. Dire numbers may help you work out what needs improving, but big numbers dont always indicate success. Tracking stats, and your hand-picked performance indictors, will help you prove the worth of your intranet to stakeholders helping you develop an intranet that is a true business tool.

Before assuming that obvious stats and the measures SharePoint or your tracking tool provides are good enough, remember the Intranetizen so what? test:

They say, Look! Employees love my content, look at the page views per visit. Translation: Employees clearly cant find what they want.

Dont monitor your intranet to death overly-honed systems can exclude fuzzy humans. Theres room for fun, community, and social chatter (to support your culture). If your intranet itself doesnt supply the stats you need for KPIs, see all the available monitoring tools. Check with your legal team before installing Google Analytics on your intranet.

A version of this article was first published over at Intranetizen.

Yammer and gamification

Notes from our webinar, led by guest expert, Scott Ward. Play the video to watch or listen to the conversation.

Gamification products / services: Badgeville; RedCritter; Big Door; Bunchball. But theres a lot you can do with just Yammer.

Were talking about behaviour here, but Scott says that Gamification is really about data, and storytelling with data.

The gamification products you can buy and use can be quite expensive, it can be more practical to build your own gamification elements.

ROI can be in the millions when you decrease collaboration costs and communication delays, and increase sales.

Gamification incentives:

    • Status awards and visibility
    • Access to senior management or other perks
    • Power enable autonomy
    • Stuff prizes.

Weather map dashboard

Scott has used a stock market report to show which departments and teams are making the best use of the tools. Weve used a weather analogy to display stats encouraging people to reduce rain clouds and increase the sunshine. Visual representation is clear and fun.

Scotts used animated green and red fish on digital displays around the organisation. Staff knew that they wanted to see more green fish while visitors dont know what the digital fish indicated!

Theres always a sense of pride around the number of followers you have.

Quests are a good way to encourage behaviour.

One idea convert praise into beans that you can use with the coffee shop downstairs for coffee.

Green fish indicate 'on target'For an external example of leader boards, take a look at now.

(The conversation gets derailed as we discuss Nerf guns and the foam ammo.)

Weve found that leaders can get really enthusiastic about the stats and leader boards. Theyve driven engagement.

Further, weve found that key motivators are status and praise. Specifically, weve asked employees to nominate colleagues who have done something brilliant that exemplifies the company values. The kudos of making the nomination, and receiving nominations, was highly valued.

Different people, different cultures, like different incentives. Designers like badges, while IT people like levels levelling up the leader board.

But all this is just to express the user-journey the work and mastery of the employee.

Badgeville's motivation modelSee Badgevilles motivation model (blue and green boxes).

But you should also consider Daniel Pinks motivation theory (autonomy, mastery, purpose).

When to use extrinsic motivation and real incentives? When the process youre rewarding is dull or unpopular. But youll need to improve the reward over time, as prize value erodes for these unpopular tasks.

To disincentives behaviour, take away their SAPS reduce their status, take away their red-carpet access, disempower them, and take away their stuff. The carrot and stick debate rages on   disincentivising is a contentious matter, and may come across as punishment rather than discipline.

(Imagine the serious side compliance matters. Disincentivising dangerous or financially risky behaviour may well be appropriate.)

People learn how to game the game. So you have to find the goal that cant be gamed.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.

Scott says he’s had complaints from people about the gamification criteria, and sometimes the complaints have been valid, and things have needed to be tweaked, but often the complaints come from people who need to improve their behaviour if theyre to match company standards.
I am Ethicon awards

[Read more about our ‘I am Ethicon’ awards and gamification.]

You must take a look at BJ Foggs models he says you need a motivator, the ability to act, and a trigger to start you off. If youre gamification can provide the motivators and triggers, then all you need to ensure is that people have the access, skills, training, and general ability to perform.

Trigger? Think notifications, alerts, and internal communications. A trigger might only encourage a small behaviour further triggers are needed to continue the journey towards the strategic goal.

Scott Ward: Building competitions

Id like to ask you how people might feel if they are a bit late to the party and cant catch up to those employees high up on the leader boards or those who have thousands of followers and get loads of praise. How can we best manage the risk of disengaging people who dont prioritise following quests? What do you think?

Take a look at how we’ve helped clients with Yammer and SharePoint.

Planning your new Intranet – prototype testing

John talks about the importance of getting end users involved with the design process in our fifth video of our series. A working prototype helps stakeholders and employees guide the final design. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

John Scott, UX Director
+ 44 20 7471 8500 | [email protected] | LinkedIn

Many intranets fail because they are designed and launched without ever being tested on real users.

It’s important to involve users in the design through workshops and interviews, but it’s even more important they help you test the site early on.

Fortunately, you don’t even have to wait until the site is built. We use wire framing software that allows us to create clickable, interactive prototypes. We can use these to simulate content, information architecture, page layouts, and even the functionality of a real intranet.

These interactive wire frames are useful for getting feedback from business stakeholders, however you can also put them in front of employees and ask them to complete a set of typical tasks, such as completing an expense claim or finding an internal vacancy in another country.

We invite around twenty employees to take part in our wireframe testing sessions, it’s best if theyre from different departments, countries, and levels of seniority. One by one we ask them to complete a set of around fifteen tasks using our interactive prototypes. We ask people to think out loud and tell us what they’re thinking as they make decisions and click through the pages.

It’s really interesting to run these sessions because it can be surprising what people struggle with. It gives us an opportunity to revise our wireframes and make sure we fix problems before we move into the build phase. This all saves precious time and money, and helps us to deliver an intranet which is already validated by employees.

View John’s next video: good graphic design.
View John’s previous video: getting the navigation right.
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