Usability of the intranet vs. internal communications apps

Hester Gras

Last week, we attended the Congres Intranet 2015, a yearly Dutch intranet conference that covers innovative intranet solutions and workplace collaboration. One of the event’s lectures focused on the usability of intranet systems. Ike Breed, usability researcher at MetrixLab, presented the lecture. One of the points that stuck with us from her lecture was that “employees often use their intranet with the underlying idea that they will have to go with it rather than that it helps them in their daily work life.” Is that the case? Is there really no alternative to the intranet?

What should be changed in our intranet.
Source: Hollandse Hoogte.


These days, there are lots of different channels we can use to communicate with our colleagues. Think about Facebook or LinkedIn groups, Yammer, WhatsApp, Skype, email, Lync and Hipchat. We can have a chat in person send text messages, call each other and use other document sharing programs such as Dropbox, WeTransfer and Google Drive. There will undoubtedly be even more tools to communicate with colleagues in the future. So, while the old company intranet prevails, we find ourselves searching for other platforms to communicate with our team.

What exactly are employees missing in their intranet?

Why we need personalization in our intranet.
Source: Hollandse Hoogte.

Ike Breed: “Employees often say that they don’t miss anything, but still characterize the intranet as a completely user unfriendly system.” The biggest three complaints:

  • “I want to personalize my content.”
  • “I want a better and more extensive search functionality.”
  • “In addition to the usual portals that I can use at home, I want to be able to use the intranet from home.”

In order to increase the adoption rate of internal communications, a company should look at the functions, tasks and needs of their employees.

Information overload

Marijn Deurloo, CEO imgZine: “These needs address an important issue: information overload. We’ve created more information in the last 10 years than in all of human history. All of this is more information than the brain is configured to handle. Ask people how they are doing these days, and the first word you will hear is busy. We do more, go to more places, and buy more. As time becomes our most scarce asset, limiting this flow to relevant information will increasingly become important. Complex machine learning algorithms will play an important role in our lives, as we train them with our behaviour.”

Source: Hollandse Hoogte. Why we need personalization in our intranet.
Source: Hollandse Hoogte.

Relevant news at any time, anywhere

Personalized apps are responding to the trends mentioned earlier. For instance, imgZine’s internal news app allows employees to personalize their news channels based on departments, offices, topics and personal interests. An extensive search filter also helps them easily find what they are looking for. Furthermore, news is available at all times. When employees are on the go, they will check the news on their phone. During working hours, they will check the news on their laptop, PC and phone. In evenings, after dinner, they might want to check the news on their tablet too.

Preach what you teach

As Ike Breed mentioned previously during her lecture, usability means doing research, testing, testing and testing. That is why we always keep digging into our users’ needs to test new features and optimize our product. After all, the work is never finished!

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