The ‘do not’ rules of intranet publishing

There are many ‘golden rules’ of communication, but when publishing on your intranet (or website) consider these ‘do not’ rules.

networkThese are not really ‘golden rules’, these are my personal ‘red rules’ that I’ve developed over the years. I refer to them during my daily job to keep me consistent, to help our intranet become consistent, and to help other intranet publishers (who may only have a smattering of interest / experience) learn some best practices.

Red Rules

  • Do not publish ‘people photos’ without Health & Safety approval;
  • Do not publish files (documents) without a Version Number;
  • Do not publish files (documents / images) with spaces in their filename. Use dashes (not underscores);
  • Do not publish files (documents) without stating type and size [Word; 600KB];
  • Do not use ‘click here’ as a hyperlink;
  • Do not publish content changes without informing the author / owner;
  • Do not link people’s names to their email address. Use their full email address as the email link if needed;
  • Do not ask questions in headings or body text, unless you are actually asking the audience a real question;
  • Do not use the intranet as your ‘master document control’ repository – authors should always keep original imagery and documents.

I’d love to add to my list, would you care to share your ‘do not’ tips?

  1. This is a great list. I’d add do not publish files without type and size such as:

    Intranet Presentation (ppt – 3.5 MB)
    Intranet Print Version (pdf 25.5 MB)

    As I get very annoyed when Acrobat fires up and I’ve got to wait for a 25 meg doc to load up…grrrr!

  2. Do not post an image without a caption/description.
    Do not post an article without an image.
    Do not publish an article without a link to comments.
    Avoid “click me!” headlines; be truthful and don’t waste people’s time (recent bad example I saw: “And the winners are…” Winners of what? Who? 9,000 clicks of waste later…)

    That’s all off the top of my head for now…

  3. While it is great that these kinds of tips are put out there and debated, I do have some comments about a few of the above.
    If you use a professional Intranet software system, at least certainly with Claromentis and I would have expected the same from any professional system:

    • Control of what metadata is set up about people, including photos, is part of the set up process and management – that metadata is delegated to authorized administrators as part of the engagement process. So company policy will dictate whether pictures are there, and who is enabled to provide and change pictures.

    • Version numbers are not necessary – they are maintained automatically by the software, ensuring the latest version is always the one found by users and allowing authorized and meaningful roll backs.

    • Spaces are perfectly acceptable in all files and objects except where they define paths to actual HTML pages

    • The system should allow both subscription and monitoring so that if the author wants o be told the software tells them automatically and always, or on the next change only – for example. The authorized user making the change can also add individual notification, but does not have to in these cases.

    • On many systems clients prefer that the intranet is indeed the master system for many information sets – keeping local copies can on some occasions be helpful but also lead to errors if care is not taken.

    Perhaps these tips are designed for people designing their own intranets as development projects, rather than using professional products as a starting point? In which case I think they are very reasonable.


  4. Software cannot address all concerns Nigel, because *processes* rely on people.

    Take document version control. While software can always ensure a person is handed ‘the latest version’, that’s irrelevant if the person can’t tell the difference between Version 1 sat on their desk, and Version 2 coming off the printer.

    I have worked under ISO 2001 standards, and the bottom line is that software is part of the process of ensuring document control, but it’s not the solution. A blended solution and some robust principles and procedures are needed. Documents *themselves* need to state their version on screen and when they’re printed. So you can see how authors need to be up to speed on company procedures and perhaps international standards.

    Spaces are not perfectly acceptable in file names on any Windows system. You have perhaps assumed that I meant to say that spaces are impossible to use. I did not; I say that spaces should be eradicated from file-names because of how Windows will download the file to one’s computer. Windows translates spaces into the characters %20. So what could be called “Business-Report-V1.doc” becomes Business%20Report%20V1.doc on our desktop and when we end up emailing it around to our team (because humans do that, sigh). This is evidently unfriendly and just a little bizarre.

    Ask my why dashes are better than underscores, I have an answer too.

    The intranet is not a Document Control System, unless of course a DCS is available *through* the intranet. Therefore, intranet publishers should not maintain and keep ‘master’ documents on behalf of a company. Departments should either maintain their own documentation (and distribute it via the intranet) or departments should manage their documentation using the Document Control System.

    Systems go down. Intranet’s fail every so often. The idea that without the intranet it would be impossible to get a copy of the company’s Health & Safety Policy (emailed from the H&S Manager?) is dangerous and ever so slightly breaking regulations. Every system needs a back up.

    Whatever system we use, it is the writer / publisher who decides how to present information on the resulting page. IT is always the human who decides how to invite the reader to download / open a document, and so it is up to the writer / publisher to include file type and file size details. No software system is without limitations, and it’s up to professional publishers to adhere to best practices and fill the gaps.

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