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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

Users are selfish, lazy and ruthless

Monday, October 25, 2004  

Nielsen's article about information foraging says that humans are inherently lazy. When we're using an intranet, we want maximum benefit for minimum effort.

While navigating, we constantly perform cost-benefit analyses:
  • What gain can I expect from this information?
  • What is the likely cost (time and effort) to discover and consume that information?

To support the behavior of your intranet users--to support "information snacking"--follow these three rules:

  • Support short visits
  • Encourage users to return
  • Emphasize search engine visibility and otherwise address users' immediate needs

User Interface Design Patterns

Wednesday, October 06, 2004  

Interface design patterns help designers solve common interface problems. Unlike templates, they don't attempt to set standards for an entire web page--they concentrate on just one aspect of a page. 20 or 30 design patterns for an intranet is probably 10 times more useful than 20 or 30 templates.

50 Ideas for Intranet Applications

Tuesday, October 05, 2004  

This list is from The Intranet Journal. Many of these applications will not be relevant or practical for your organization, but it's a great source of ideas for your portal.

Sales & marketing applications

  • Product demos & sales scripts
  • Product information
  • Sales forecasts and reports
  • Sales contact management
  • Sales lead management
  • Market research
  • Solicit input from field personnel
  • Press releases
  • Sales team collaboration tools
  • Calendars
  • Sales training

Human resources applications

  • Employee handbook
  • People directory
  • Benefits information
  • Retirement/ pension centre
  • Employee surveys
  • Internal recruiting
  • External recruiting
  • Candidate screening
  • Org charts
  • Newsletters
  • Company calendar
  • Employee classifieds

Engineering applications

  • Online project conferences
  • Project documentation
  • Project management
  • Engineering change orders
  • Workflow management
  • Standards and methodology documentation
  • Engineering libraries
  • QA feedback
  • Technical papers
  • Central repository for shared development
  • Prototype applications

Customer service applications

  • Consolidated online information for customer service personnel
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Customer information entry and update
  • Order entry and tracking
  • Problem entry and tracking
  • Bug fixes
  • Warranty claims and processing
  • Problem escalation
  • Training

Finance and accounting applications

  • Financial reports
  • Policies and procedures
  • Historical budgeting data
  • Asset management
  • Expense reports
  • Unit reporting and forecasting
  • Accounts payable/receivable history and status
  • Payroll information
  • Purchase orders

About the Author

I'm Chris McGrath, an intranet consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I've been working on intranets since 1997, and on plain ol' web sites for even longer. I run One Intranets, the firm that co-created ThoughtFarmer -- an enterprise collaboration platform for Windows-based intranets.