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Intranet, Rants

What annoys my intranet surfers

I’m putting together my Content Strategy, my Style Guide and some good practice guides for publishing on our new intranet and communicating messages online. To get buy-in, I remembered to ask people involved with our comms and intranet to offer their tips and pet annoyances when it comes to viewing web pages (any pages, not just intranet pages).

I asked 61 people and more than half of them came back within hours with the following awesome feedback. It was almost as good as asking Twitter; I guess when you ask the right questions, people choose to engage!

I like it when web pages:

  • use images;
  • show when last updated;
  • stick to a uniform layout;
  • are short and to the point;
  • use consistent fonts and sizes;
  • provide instructions in bulleted lists;
  • show clear contact / ownership details;
  • provide links to further relevant information;
  • use sufficient and appropriate sub-headings;
  • start with a summary that says the main things;
  • have very clear presentation, using whitespace;
  • have ‘back to top’ links to save on scrolling back up.

I hate it when web pages:

  • are cluttered;
  • use CAPITALS;
  • have broken links;
  • use glaring colours;
  • use fancy distractions;
  • use flashing (anything);
  • use acronyms and jargon;
  • use pop-ups or new windows;
  • take too many clicks to reach;
  • use too many bulleted list items;
  • use excessive / aggressive bold;
  • are empty, and claim to be ‘in progress’;
  • are too short – lacking in information;
  • mention a page / document but don’t link to it;
  • say ‘click here’ instead of a meaningful hyperlink;
  • link to documents without showing its not a web page;
  • talk about ‘today’ or a date in the past as if it’s the present;
  • show people’s names that don’t click through to their Profile page;
  • have drop-down menus with sub-menus flying out of them (too hard to hover / click).

Further, people hated pages that were pointless. “What’s it to me?”. I’m reminded that good comms should be:

  1. accurate;
  2. relevant;
  3. timely;
  4. concise;
  5. contextual;
  6. rich.

This is all good stuff isn’t it? Because it matches our own best practice guidelines and style guides. Yet time and time again, content authors decide that their pages are special, that their information needs to be highlighted in green, presented as an image, boxed in with red lines.

We don’t want that, and our readers don’t either! What is it about being given publishing rights for the first time that makes a person revert to playschool colouring-in techniques?

“I don’t think the hyperlink is obvious enough, so I spent 90 minutes creating a ‘button’ image in MS Paint and now I need help making it clickable please.”

“I made the page background on all our team pages blue so that visitors would know they’re on our site.”

Go away and do some real work – I’m tempted to say. The intranet isn’t a play-pit; we’re all trying to do more with less these days, and time is tight. Faffing about with fancy script, huge tables (when a list would suffice) and cartoon characters stolen from the web is a waste of company time. And such horrendous design inconsistencies stop people reading your communication. It’s a lose lose thang.

I like the points provided because they back up the best practices I already know. I.e. instead of arguing with people about “why it is a best practice” I can use these points to confirm people’s expectations.

“See,” I shall say, “your colleagues have helped build our Intranet Publishing Guidelines. We all expect you to stick to the good practices laid down.”

[Wedge]

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Photo credit: kayepants

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

5 thoughts on “What annoys my intranet surfers

  • Oh my god, blue pages. Yes! It’s all coming back to me now. Even worse when you think someone knows what they’re doing and you’ve given them free access, then check in later and… But people have to learn somewhere. I always tried to encourage them to get hold of a free domain space and play till they worked out all of their design frustrations and could focus on understanding why we created house style guides. Failing that, I’d shoot them!

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  • This is a wonderful article and says the same things I’ve been telling my students for more than a year! Thanks for the confirmation and back-up. Now they’ll know it’s not just me making stuff up! ;-)

  • The links are not working for “timely, concise, contextual and rich” in your bulleted list of what good comms should be. And I assume you know the first item in that list, “accurate,” is not a link. I’m not just trying to be snarky — I truly hope this note is helpful — but it does illustrate your point that missing/broken links are annoying.

  • Thanks Gerald, I’m having a hard time with WordPress changing the hyperlinks I use – I’ll have to learn to double check my code, thanks ever so.

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