Ten More Signs you’re losing the intranet plot

In February, we offered up some tough love with our post describing 14 horrible features that we’d all seen on intranets over the years. It became a confessional with practitioners globally admitting the error of their ways, whilst others defended their use of weather widgets, timezone clocks and “click here” links.

Some actions can never be defended. Never.

In volume two, we offer up further intranet horrors that some intranet managers call features and we call signs you’ve lost the plot. Use this watershed to confess all. Do you do any of these?

1. “Here you will find” text

Intranet pages need to be clear, concise and without an ounce of unnecessary fat. If you really have to explain what a user will find on the page with some “Here you will find…” text, you’re doing it wrong. Try showing your users what’s on the page by actually laying it out clearly. They’ll thank you for it.

2. Splash pages of any kind (including “Click here to enter”)

People! Really! Most of your employees just about tolerate your intranet and that’s about as much love for your hard work as you can reasonably expect. Don’t make them hate you — make the site as easy and as quick as you can to get to the bits they need. Never, under any circumstance, add a page that serves only to slow them down from doing the things they should be doing.

3. Marquees (scrolling text)

Marquees: Scrolling text. Good grief. These should be consigned to the same dustbin as ‘under construction’ signs, scrunchies and harem pants.  Quite apart from being difficult to read, they are – without exception – mighty ugly. Don’t even think about it.

4. Rating stars

Yes, I know — I’ll upset lots of people with that one, but really, they’re a pointless piece of intranet theatre that are blithly added with little thought. Think about it: When someone uses a rating feaure, what are they rating?? Is it the story, the picture, the tone, the chap in the article, the fact that it’s about the latest must have company product or the fact that you adore the author? And once you’ve rated the article, what do intranet managers do with the data? Do they use it to change their writing style, their picture choices, the article sentiment, their perfume or the product mentioned? No, they don’t, because they have no single idea why any one rated it the way they did. Rating systems are just meaningless space fillers unless they have clear context.

5. Images with instructional text

Not only is this possibly illegal, it’s also plain stupid. Employees with visual impairment may not be able to read the text in the image and thus, not be able to follow your instruction. Your search will never pick it up, and it rarely renders properly on anyone using a mobile device. Do yourself a favour, images show images, use text for text.

6. Snowflakes (or other seasonal nonsense)

Most of your employees will be acutely aware that Christmas approaches and will not need snow added to the intranet header graphic as a pointer. Most of your employees have calendars. Just in case you’re tempted, please don’t add ‘sun’ for summer, ‘falling leaves’ for Autumn/Fall or lambs (yes, you heard me) to show it’s Spring.

7. Varying text sizes within the one sentence

A properly crafted sentence can easily indicate emphasis, so there is precisely no need to vary the size of the font. Please. PLEASE. Never do that.

8a. Use of the phrase “My[X]”

pssst! Tony Blair and George W. Bush are no longer world-leaders. It’s not 2002 anymore!

8b. …and no, i[X] isn’t cool either

When Apple did it, it was original and gave them a strong brand. On your intranet it looks like a desperate attempt to appear “bang on trend”. This is the intranet equivalent of dad dancing.

9. Mystery Meat Navigation

Navigation elements that don’t reveal themselves until you mouseover. Why the secret? Your employees don’t have time to be teased with your intranet navigation — they’ve got places to go! Hopefully, they’re busy people!

10. Blink text

Just because HTML is capable, doesn’t mean that you should. This is not a demonstration of your knowledge of obscure coding, this is your corporate intranet. Text that blinks can only be read half of the time, people…

There are 11 comments

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  1. Alexis Rodrigo

    Your list made me laugh, thanks! The sad thing is, though, that some intranets are still guilty of these. Will definitely bookmark this post for sharing with our clients.

    Alexis Rodrigo
    Noodle Intranet Software

  2. Zeb Ahmed

    Much nodding from this direction and alas, a groan or two because while I agree with everything you’ve said, sometimes it’s a case of having best practice over ridden by the need of the team you’re working in needing to over utilise the tool they have for their own agenda. Rating stars, instructional text on images and varying text sizes. I grind my teeth, but I was voted off the island when it came to decision time on those. Ah well.

  3. Peter Richards

    Ah Jonathan.

    Your “Losing the #Intranet plot” posts do make me laugh. Though there are a couple in this ten that I do not agree with. I do believe that some of your posts are meant to provoke a reaction.

    All Intranet managers must remember is that all organisations are different so all Intranets need to be different . That is what makes Intranet Management such an interesting speciality.

    The challenge is to identify what kind of things engage your employees and that may even be something that was in vogue 10 years ago.

    If it works for your organisation then do it. But remember to make sure you can prove that it works 🙂

    • @DigitalJonathan

      I do accept the point you and Zeb are making. What’s acceptable, what’s needed, rather depends on the company and employees want. So, if they want marquees, we should give it …. NO NO, what am I saying?

      As intranet managers, you have a sharp understanding of technology, the business in which you operate, of UX, of design, of accessibility and of the law. Employees should let you know what their business needs from the intranet are, they should let you get on with the job of delivering. Sometimes, you’ve got to over-rule.

      I’m reminded of this excellent website: A little bit of something.. “That man didn’t listen to the web designer and his website looks shit”. In short, let the experts do their job.

  4. Alex Manchester

    8b. …and no, i[X] isn’t cool either: When Apple did it, it was original and gave them a strong brand. On your intranet it looks like a desperate attempt to appear “bang on trend”. This is the intranet equivalent of dad dancing.

    Hmmm, isn’t CCE’s intranet called ‘iConnect’, Mr Phillips?

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