1. Hi James – funnily enough, about 5 years ago when the trend was to try to emulate everything Google did, we discussed doing just this with our intranet homepage – we even did a trial of Google inside. Needless to say, it didn’t work and it never happened!


    • James Robertson

      Funny! This article seems to have sparked some interest. :-) These issues are very clear for us, as intranet professionals, but the challenge remains to find good arguments for senior management and stakeholders…

  2. Wendy Pang

    You are so right – I’ve had an executive ask for exactly this. I work in the public service, but I find, as I move from one department to the next, that common entitlements are called by quite different names. So if you are looking for ‘salary sacrifice’ you are not going to find it, if it’s called ‘salary packaging’.
    I’ll keep this article handy for the next time I have this question.

  3. While a good search tool is critical to Intranet success, so is a strong navigation taxonomy. The reality is that people find information in different ways. Some people like to search, others like to navigate. My experience is that the best Intranets use a hybrid approach that give users a strong search engine as well as clear navigation opportunties.

    Great article!


  4. Good article, as James says a searchbox only is not of practical use in an intranet.

    Actually, the answer to these very senior stakeholders is very simple. An intranet is not only to pull content (which the searchbox could cater for), but also to PUSH content (especially the stories of these senior stakeholders). And that can’t be done with a search-box.

  5. Matt Moore

    While what is being asked for is inappropriate, the underlying desire for something simple is valid. It’s probably important to acknowledge that desire and then work on how it is implemented – which probably won’t be the Google homepage.

    One point to make with stakeholders is that website owners spend huge amounts of money to make their sites findable by Google – there’s this little industry called SEO that some of you may have heard of ;-)

    If they want a Google type solution are they willing to give their intranet site owners similar budgets to make their properties search-friendly? Generally the answer will be “no”.

  6. Thanks for the post, James.

    You’re quite right about striving to merge search and browse. That’s something I write about in my book ( and have talked about in webinars (e.g.,

    The scent of information theory predicts that rich navigation options will increase performance, particularly for unknown item seeking. Recently, I recommended making the homepage of an intranet like a sitemap. Of course, there’d be a search too, but it seems reasonable to make the intranet homepage function more like an index than anythng else.

    Intranet usability is different from web usability. SEO is different, as is the target user group and typical behaviors. The assumption that a Google-like search–even if it’s the Google search engine–can work the same on an intranet as on the open web is misguided.

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Published April 29, 2010

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter)