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Communications, Design, Intranet

Long multi-topic or short single-topic intranet pages?

I’m writing the content strategy and migration plan for our new intranet. I need to guide new authors / publishers on page length – word count, sub-headings, that sort of thing.

I started from an assumption that related short intranet pages on the old intranet should be consolidated into longer, more comprehensive, pages on our new intranet. I assumed this was more efficient and effective, would reduce clicks and reduce the total page count of our intranet. I don’t like millions of dull pages clogging up my search results… Then I remembered to ‘check’ my assumption.

So I asked my Twitter friends and I’m asking a set of our intranet users; may I ask you for your ‘vote’ in the comments below this article?

Do you prefer longer, comprehensive intranet pages that cover multiple related topics?

Or do you prefer shorter single topic pages, that link to other related pages? (A ‘suite’ of five pages instead of one long one.)

Yes, I now know there’s no single answer, and that it all depends on the content / topic covered. But I still need to guide my brand new authors and publishers, so although the line may be grey, I still need to define the line in some way. When to publish concise intranet web pages and link them all together, and when to publish one long page and provide a clickable content menu at the top.

I’m not discussing news articles or front-page news articles. I’m certain they must be short – today I’m asking about ‘permanent reference pages’ only.

Here’s an illustration to show either the consolidation concept of the ‘splitting up’ concept. Please click to embiggen.

So, what do you think? I know it’s grey, I know there’s no right or wrong, and I know we’re talking about our opinions here – but I still have to provide ‘good practice’ guidance to scores of people who have never written or published anything for mass consumption before.

T h a n k  y o u : )

[Wedge]

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P.S. so far, people tell me they like short pages, but long pages when there’s the opportunity to replace what was once a long Word document. Few people enjoy download Word documents from the intranet – a long web page is better than a buried Word document when it comes to online communications.

I’m taking this to mean:

We prefer single-topic short pages that link to each other, except when an ‘official procedure’ Word document can be presented as a web page instead. Such ‘official documents’ (like procedures, work instructions and policies) could be one comprehensive page.

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.

7 thoughts on “Long multi-topic or short single-topic intranet pages?

  • I usually recommend one ‘theme’ per page but link if it’s more than about 500 words. Most things can be cut back to everyone’s advantage to avoid this, but all takes time.

    If people are keen to print out for reference, may have to consider a printer-friendly version. But shouldn’t use this as an excuse for bad presentation – ie it’s easier to make sense of long badly written material on paper than onscreen.

    Research has shown that fact-based info is best broken down and linked for easy scanning (bullet points, boxes, timelines etc) but more compellingly written material(such as stories, case studies)are better as ‘long-form narrative’. Interesting that nearly all blogs are in long-form narrative.

    Hope this helps a bit.

  • It seems that what you have found is that one size does not fit all – different people ‘express’ different preferences (what a surprise!).

    You’ve also found that to some degree the content should define the length – that’s certainly true but a piece of content and a page are not the same thing, although there is a temptation to treat them as such.

    An simply example might be an online version of a company magazine – if it’s published as a PDF then it is one piece of content. If it a series of stories each on a single page then it’s more… If within the system used to create the pages different info goes into different parts of a form (one for the title, one for the byline, one for the body etc.) then each of these is a separate piece of content, the cms can manipulate the output – e.g. it might automatically collate titles and bylines to generate a table of contents.

    Now to your examples – you have identified within the illustrations many different pieces of content that you are trying to put onto the page – since you have a system capable of managing those pieces of content individually then it should be capable of combining or separating them to meet the desire of the user. As your intranet is powered by a CMS there is no reason why it has to – it is simply a technical problem.

    Even if you only publish as short pages for the screen – those of us that can’t read longer items online (by preference or for technology reasons) might want a one click to print all…

    hope that helps….

  • You could do a combination of the two approaches. Have a landing page with summary text for each category. Set a maximum limit* for the summary text and only link to an additional page if the volume of content for a category expands beyond this limit.

    This will likely satisfy people who hate waiting for pages to load only to find minimal content (like me – and especially on slow intranets). And people who prefer bite size chunks of content should find it less overwhelming that the single long page approach.

    *probably make the maximum limit fuzzy to avoid people having to click through to a new page to find one extra word beyond the summary.

  • Hi John, thanks for checking out my blog, and for your suggestion. I’m sure we’ll implement something about ‘maximums’ and ‘summaries’, so thanks there. Plenty to do and I’m on holiday this week – sheesh!

    Will mail you soon, thanks ever so,

    Wedge

  • We’re reworking our intranet and have set up a system of landing pages that include top level summaries that then link to more details. I think that makes sense, because number of clicks doesn’t matter as much if you’re getting the payoff you’re looking for with each click. (So a manager type might get what she needs from the summary, a line supervisor might need a little more detail and go to that page, an operations employee might need to see the fine details of a process, so he clicks deeper.)

    However, we still have pretty content-dense pages that it doesn’t make sense to break up. For those, one thing we’ve implemented in our current intranet is an “On this page” section at the top that then has book marks to subheads. That allows us to keep like content together with out adding/managing infinite, but helps users quickly understand what’s within the page and get to the information they care about. Plus, we use the bookmarks for direct links if we’re promoting a specific sub-topic.

    I’m interested in hearing more from others … it’s a tricky balance.

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