One of the most common reasons why intranets fail is due to disorganised intranet content and poor search capabilities. If people can’t find what they need swiftly, frustrations will brew and they will eventually abandon the system.
But this doesn’t have to be the fate of your intranet.
With some intranet information architecture examples under your belt, you can create an intranet that’s easy for teams to navigate and allows them to quickly find the information they need.
But before we share our intranet information architecture best practices, let’s first understand what it is!
What is intranet information architecture?
Information architecture (IA) is the process of organising, structuring, and categorising content in a logical way. It should take into account the type of content (e.g. video, document, image, web page), the context (e.g. how frequently or urgently people need to access the content), and the audience (e.g. who should and shouldn’t have access to the content). IA is closely connected to user experience (UX) in that it helps people to find the information they need quickly and easily.
By way of an example: imagine browsing a home improvements website to buy a tin of blue bathroom paint. Sounds simple enough, but when you click on the “paint” menu item, you’re faced with hundreds of options. There’s nowhere to filter the list of paints by colour or room, so your only choice is to scroll through a myriad of irrelevant products. You’re left feeling irritated and that you’ve wasted your time, and concede that you should take your business elsewhere. This is an example of poor IA in action, which could easily have been avoided had the website followed a few basic IA guidelines.
Intranet information architecture follows exactly the same principles as standard IA; the only difference is that the process is focussed on making intranet content easier to navigate and locate. And thanks to in-built audience targeting features and customisable landing pages, it’s super simple to create an intranet that fulfils IA best practices.
5 intranet information architecture best practice examples
Today’s modern intranets often come pre-packaged with tools that encourage good intranet information architecture from the start, such as mobile-friendly menu builders, content targeting capabilities, and drag & drop landing pages. These provide a great foundation for creating an intuitive digital workplace that will entice teams to use it rather than drive them away.
With that in mind, here are 5 intranet information architecture examples that will help you build an effective intranet your teams will want to use:
Intranet information architecture example #1: Create a logical intranet menu structure
When creating your intranet, think of its menu structure as the backbone of the system. Without structure, any intranet content that you add will inevitably become disorganised and difficult to find.
Consider what should be in the top-level navigation (i.e. the first menu items your teams will see from the homepage) so that users understand where they can find the information they need. Depending on your business requirements, navigation could be structured by department, location, task (e.g. forms, policies, reports), project (e.g. internal or client), or services (e.g. technical support, HR advice, purchase orders).
Create a logical top-level navigation menu to help teams find what they need
Intranet information architecture example #2: Use the right content type for the job
As we mentioned above, an important part of good intranet information architecture is understanding the content type. This means using the most suitable medium for delivering information, whether that’s via video, a social intranet post, or company news article.
For instance, if you need to share an urgent update about closing the office due to bad weather, it’s unlikely that a video would be the best content type. For a start, it would take too long to create, and the format doesn’t scream “urgency”. A much more suitable content type would be sending push notifications to users’ smartphones. It’s instant, direct, and gets straight to the point.
Send announcements directly to your teams’ smartphones and desktop to announce urgent updates.
Intranet information architecture example #3: Target content to the relevant teams
Avoid information overload by taking advantage of your intranet’s content targeting features, which allow you to push relevant information to the right teams.
For instance, do your marketing executives need to know about the latest procedure for processing invoices? Probably not. If you broadcast every piece of content to all teams, you’re likely to overwhelm and confuse them, which may result in important information getting missed.
Another consideration is confidentiality. Beyond being a nuisance, some information must be kept secure and for a limited set of eyes only, such as salary data or employee sickness details. Your intranet’s access controls will allow you to define exactly who can and can’t see certain information, so make good use of these.
Same homepage, different content. Use content targeting tools to push relevant information to different team members.
Intranet information architecture example #4: Add quick links
Want a quick IA win? Add quick links and fast access buttons to your intranet homepage, which act as shortcuts to your teams’ most visited pages or apps. Depending on your users’ needs, these could be links to their calendar, departmental dashboard, or upcoming events, and will save them time from navigating various intranet menus to find what they need.
Even better, you can combine quick links and fast access buttons with your intranet’s content targeting features, so that they’re personalised per location, department, or team. You can also add links to external applications and restrict access so that only those who need it will see it, which will keep your intranet interface clean and clutter-free.
Individuals can also create their own list of quick links – which only they will be able to access – making the intranet a central hub of useful information.
Add fast access buttons to your intranet homepage.
Intranet information architecture example #5: Constantly improve intranet search
According to a study by Visual.ly, 45% of people spend three hours or more per week searching for information on their intranet. That’s a lot of unnecessarily wasted time.
Therefore, you should constantly improve your intranet search capabilities as part of your intranet information architecture due diligence. For instance, conduct regular intranet search audits by adding search recommendations and related keywords, and allow users to submit search suggestions via a “Can’t find what you’re looking for?” form. Doing so will ensure your intranet search features get smarter over time and produce the results your users are expecting.