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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

Avoid redundant links

Monday, January 31, 2005  

Sometimes you might be tempted to provide 2 or 3 links to the same intranet page, just to make sure users see it. For example, on Big White's home page, there's 4 different ways to get to the snow report. Don't do this. Here's why:

1. It's confusing.
Users rarely understand that the links are duplicates. They'll stare at all the links, trying to decipher the difference between "Weather", "Mountain Report" and "Daily Snow Report".

2. It slows users down.
More links increases the number of micro-decisions your users have to make, slowing them down. Or they might waste time visiting the same page twice. (See a related study.)

3. It clutters the page.
Screen real estate is precious, and web designers are always trying to figure out how to simplify things. Stripping away redundant links reduces clutter.

You know the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid. Avoid complexity by never repeating a link on the same page.

Use photos of real employees on your intranet

Monday, January 17, 2005  

Our brains are wired from birth to notice other human's faces. It's the first thing we notice on the initial visit to a web page. But if we use people photos improperly on intranets, it can undermine trust. Follow these guidelines:

1. Don’t use photos of perfect people.
Stock photos contain people that are too beautiful to be real employees. Using them undermines the credibility of your intranet.

2. Don’t use people photos gratuitously.
This only distracts users, and can even be interpreted as an attempt to manipulate trust.

3. Use photos of real employees with an obvious connection to the content.
Your intranet users will immediately be drawn to the content. The photo will also provide a context that will help him or her better understand the information.

Don't break the Back button

Monday, January 03, 2005  

The web browser's BACK button is fundamental to web navigation. It accounts for 30% of all navigation actions. Breaking the back button is usually caused by one of these mistakes:

1. Launching new windows.
DON'T. It breaks the back button and it's annoying.

2. Forwarding to another page.
If you redirect requests from one URL to another, do it right or you'll break the back button.

3. Preventing caching.
Users want to press the back button even during online transactions, so don't try to stop the browser from caching. If your web application doesn't support the Back button, it's broken.

Make the world easier to navigate. Don't break your users' Back.

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.