The Canonical Intranet Homepage (23 May 2005)
Does it matter that most intranet homepages look alike? Not really, since users only see their own company's intranet design. No risk of confusing two intranets.
The uniformity is also understandable: at some level, intranets all solve the same problem, which is to make a company's internal information and applications easily available to employees. The more we study intranet usability, the more we discover good ways of representing common design issues.
Many intranets are built on portal software platforms that encourage homepage design as a composite of boxed "portlets." The default appearance of these templates is not particularly attractive, but it works. Another reason for intranet uniformity.
At one of my recent intranet usability seminars, a participant asked me whether intranet designers have a future. His concern was that, as portal platforms become more pervasive, they might take over much of the work previously done by a company's intranet team. Will there be any jobs at all down the road?
Emphatically, yes. Intranet designers have glorious career prospects, even as surface design becomes more standardized and more features are supplied by middleware rather than hand-coded.
Currently, most intranets have poor usability because the project is too big for the available personnel. Companies should empower intranet teams to focus on important usability contributors, while relegating the rest to standard software. If you're slaving away on trivial features, it's a bad use of time. Making a more strategic contribution using more powerful tools offers a much better career.
Article URL: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20050523.html
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