1. Good point, James. I definitely think that a pleasing aesthetic is necessary but not sufficient for an intranet. To quote your favourite saying, you don’t want “lipstick on a pig”, but a clever-as-all-hell ugly ducking doesn’t cut it either.

    Perhaps Smashing Magazine will now publish a list of “140 dead sexy intranet templates”?!

    • James Robertson

      Hi Pat, agree completely. In the past, I’ve definitely been in the camp of “I don’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s useful”. In part, this was a response to intranet projects that produce pretty-but-useless intranets.

      What I’m swinging around to is a middle ground: I’ll have both useful and engaging. I’ll look forward to the Smashing Magazine article :-)

  2. Lukas Karrer

    I completely agree with Patrick. Unfortunately, I have seen to many redesign projects focusing only on visual design.

    User accpetance will rise upon relaunch, but will drop and return to the previous levels shortly therafter.

  3. Jason

    “Perhaps Smashing Magazine will now publish a list of “140 dead sexy intranet templates”?!”

    What? Where? When?!!!

  4. Thanks James! Many of the modern out-of-the-box intranet solutions already contain pre-set design tmeplates and our experience shows that customers are content with them. They rarely change the appearance and even the pre-set structure.

    • James Robertson

      @Denis, I think this shows how diverse the intranet “market” is. Intranet projects are run in everything from 100,000 strong global firms to 100 person SME’s. Definitely agree that at the smaller end of things, a nimbler, simpler, more out-of-the-box intranet deployment makes sense.

  5. Great stuff here, James.

    Per Lucas’ comment “I have seen to many redesign projects focusing only on visual design” – I feel it’s critical to align intranet brand, design and strategic messaging at a deep level with the broader company go-to-market strategy, approaching employees an audience segment, as viable and valued as customers and prospects.

    The alignment and engagement that can result from approaching employees as an audience segment and intranet as a channel is more profound than design itself can provide It highlights that user acceptance is a superficial measure, kind of like asking whether you like the shade of lipstick the pig is wearing…

    • James Robertson

      @Andy, definitely agree that a good design involves more than just paying a designer to produce something pretty and leaving it at that. It’s funny how organisations think hard about the things you list when they redesign their public-facing websites, but don’t think at all about them for intranets…

  6. Great post. I experienced a similar, very detailed discussion on this topic during an member meeting 6 months ago in New York. You may also be interested in checking out the screen shots on their My Beautiful Intranet slide show highlighting submissions made during June’s

    • James Robertson

      @Andy, I was aware of the great post from IBF on this topic (already blogged!). I think this is one of the biggest benefits of communities such as the Intranet Benchmarking Forum: they provide members with an opportunity to see other intranets, and to compare approaches in concrete terms. (This is why we set up the Intranet Leadership Forum in Australia.)

Published July 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)

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