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I've found most of our users are totally unaware of the term, though it's plastered on the front page of our Intranet site and the desktop icon they use to get to the site is labeled "(Company) Intranet".

In fact many users I've met have difficulty even remembering or pronouncing the term, a couple people at the office call it "in-tra-net" every time like it's three words. The name isn't working out.

What's a better way to refer to an internal company website? We're used to referring to the site by it's function--most people call it "payroll" because they enter payroll into it weekly, but it serves several other functions (which any given user may or may not use/be allowed to use).

Our site really needs a better name; management insists "everyone knows it as XWEB" but the "official" acronym is meaningless, never used on the site and no one outside of IT and management has ever used the term.

A solution I've thought of is "RSG Web", our initials + Web, which would make more sense than XWeb where X is the initials of a dead company. Since it's our brand I'd feel okay with this on the site, but it doesn't seem that amazing a solution either; it feels technical and awkward.

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It's not actually called XWEB but it's something equally meaningless, it's named for a company that died 5 years ago and originally wrote the site which we now own. Our IT department uses the term almost exclusively and I'm trying to get them to stop. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 15:02
    
We call our intranet "The Loop". –  Cape Cod Gunny Dec 28 '11 at 15:39
    
@codeinthehole lots of them; it's almost a toolbox. We're using it to manage permissions and data from a central place which involves consuming lots of littler internal sites and applications. What any two users do or even see on the site may be quite different except they will always be performing business matters for the company. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:22
    
What are the separate applications that combine to form the site? –  codeinthehole Dec 28 '11 at 16:24
    
Payroll and production entry are the most common, but admin and or special users have access to a security camera menu, a "status" indicator for company locations and accounting reports. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:29

13 Answers 13

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've encountered this issue many times across a couple of different places I've worked. Different people know the icon but refer to it differently. They may know the name but never refer to it in such a manner.

The one time I saw true uniformity across all departments was that it was given a specific name like "The Hub" or as Cape Cod Gunny answered, "The Loop". It turns into a branding issue of the internal, corporate intranet.

The branding issue though should be addressed as one. The site's content should reflect such as well as communications about such need to reflect the name and branding appropriately too. Also, make sure that all new hire employees are provided the name in the same style so that they can seed those who have been with the company for a while. If departments keep referring to it in different ways, it'll never get better.

So to answer your question - ask people while you're in the break room or perhaps see about get an internal contest going on to rename the company intranet and then build a small branding strategy around such with everyone. If you're looking to start, get with HR and see how they post updated Benefit information on the site (if they do). Such announcements traditionally are online for companies and emails about such are a perfect opportunity to begin pushing the new brand.

Lastly, you may also want to do a content audit on the site to see if the information architecture and current content strategies involving the site are appropriate. If the IA or CS isn't good on the site, the users of the site may still have a hard time adopting it fully regardless of the name.

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IA is a bit of an issue; the intranet is consuming several different functions that were (fairly arbitrarily) different web or desktop apps. One of them was a "dashboard" for production information. "Dashboard" as a term is off the table since the other site (while poorly made) was referred to explicitly and consistently as such. Annoyingly our good, new site does NOT have a consistent name, and laying it out has been a challenge due to that. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:10

It's an interesting question.

Pondering it I came up with

  • Web Office
  • Online Office

My line of thought is that what the "intranet" in many instances is used for is instant accessibility to factions of the company. You visit the intranet to find news of a company project, instead of walking across the building to ask them. You put in your working hours instead of walking over to Economy talking to someone there. You look up where someone you need to get in touch with sits instead of asking ten people around you if they have any idea. The list can go on...

This is why I think it could be proper to find a term that communicates that it's a virtual/online version of the office.

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People may confuse those terms with Microsoft's product baring the safe name. –  Danny Varod Jun 11 '12 at 17:56

I've ran into this issue many times before. I used to work in State Government and, over time, people knew I was the 'web person' so would get calls from the public (which, BTW, is a GREAT way to get UX insight...I firmly believe UX should be attached to support whenever possible).

Anyways, one of the most common questions I'd get is "I sent an email to so-and-so and got a link but it doesn't work". Sure enough, someone sent someone a link to our intranet again.

We never found a solution, but I think instead of 'intranet' it might be best to simply call it what it is. "Company X's Private Internal Web Site". Boring. Bland. But at least descriptive. Perhaps you can liven it up using it as a prominent tagline instead:

THE X FACTOR!
Company X's Private Internal Web Site
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One of the biggest problems with companies these days is the tendency to give things grand titles that no one remembers. How many companies have a project Zeus or other projects known only by a three letter acronym? These titles are there to glorify those who do the work, not to explain it to others.

Intranet is a technical term. Xweb is a glorification title. Many other companies give their intranet a name, like Hub, Gateway, Plaza, Connect etc. which are more friendly. The biggest issue is does that site deliver what is needed to the users? Many companies often have a patchwork of different internal solutions so, regardless of what you call it, the aim should be to provide a coherent and simple experience for all users. That means a well-researched information architecture for the intranet, not putting everything into widgets as some intranets do and letting the users attempt to work it out themselves.

Ultimately, try and give it a name that describes what it does, even if it's something like 'Company's internal site', avoid glory titles and meaningless acronyms and it should be okay.

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Unfortunately it does too many things to have a descriptive title beyond "internal site" (which I've considered). People calling it "payroll" is a big part of the problem...it's not just payroll, but it doesn't brand itself well enough to have a better name yet. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:12

It sounds like one of the classic "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" situations. Nothing in operations suffers from mis-use of the term except for the obsessive-compulsive IT department.

Intranet is a technical term used to describe the back-end architecture (network & hosting access). However, on the front-end, users see it as just another "website" and don't infer the difference from the name, especially when the content can be accessed remotely. Therefore, the most generic non-technical term you can use in lieu of "intranet" is along the lines of "employee portal" and "corporate portal".

The official acronym suggested by your management is decent solution. The proprietary name is a symbol that employees in your company associate with that particular site. If you don't like how it sounds just come up with a better-sounding but still proprietary name.

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But it doesn't work...I'm saying "payroll" to some people and "production" to some people and "the website" to others. For an arbitrary term I'm thinking RSGWEB (our initials + WEB), which if the actual site used it could make some sense. Interesting several users have been unaware that it's a "website" as well... –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:03
    
Sorry, I misunderstood your question a bit - I thought you were trying to impose the technical terms. I'm getting an impression that the problem is deeper than just branding since different people refer to it by the functions they use. The problem can be either in your users not utilizing the portal as much or them not trained on its features properly or it being managed poorly. Though in terms of a proprietary name, RSGWEB is perfectly fine (it's hard to forget your employer's acronym). –  dnbrv Dec 28 '11 at 16:22
    
Initially I was trying to impose the term "intranet" (after all, people know "internet") but it's become clear "company intranet" doesn't work. I'm leaning toward RSBWEB too, it at least keeps it generic but branded properly. –  Ben Brocka Dec 28 '11 at 16:24

I agree that intranet, especially given the vagaries of English and its inevitable confusion with Internet, should be avoided.

The site my former company, a non-profit, used for this purpose (expense claims, logging hours for contractors, communications, etc) was called backoffice.

It's easily-understood by non-techies, you can create a subdomain with that name, and, at least to me, these constructs like "log in to backoffice" seem natural to me.

Another term I've run across is company portal or employee portal.

EDIT: Note that we're not referring to a product called BackOffice: we just referred to our custom intranet site this way.

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Maybe a good approach is revisiting what makes this site special. Listing a few characteristics that different personas relate the site with, and then finding the common denominator.

Quick 'n dirty example.

  • The CEO: intranet, xweb, private access, employee discussions, etc.
  • The janitor: payrolls, private data, login and password, other employees, etc.
  • The IT crew: intranet, xweb, private portal, employee control, payrolls, etc.
  • The accountant: payroll, company's data, employee's private messages, etc.

And the winner is: Private Employee Network! (I added the 'network' to sound techy).

Of course this is to be applied in your company's context.

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I'd not even bother mentioning 'the web'.

I'd call it:

The Company Information Network.

And then give it one of those catchy short titles as well such as 'The Hub'

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Good suggestions are already given... Or choose a name yourself when it's catchy.

Or even better yet make a widget on the intranet homepage 1. collect names for it from colleagues (put down a short description for its purpose) and 2. let them poll after you (and some of your colleagues) make a selection. 3. promote the new name with a new logo/house style

Good luck!

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We had an employee-wide contest to submit names for the intranet. The intranet committee narrowed them down to 5 and then had everyone vote. Most popular one got the win and the submitter of the winner got a prize. We then modified the internal URL to prominently feature the chosen name, branded the landing page accordingly and set everyone's browser homepage to the intranet home page. It kept the site in their face and easily accessible.

FWIW, the winning name was "Lavalamp"

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Simple: make it a product. Give it a specific name. Give it a version number. Keep upping the version number. Do not refer to it in a general sense.

I've had much better success in building products for people when they realize that their site will be a specific product not some general thing. Knowing that that their product will specifically address their needs, they feel more comfortable giving it a specific name.

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The short and catchy titles others have mentioned are good if they are descriptive. Calling something "The Hub" when it isn't ( because most stuff isn't there ) is just confusing and misleading.

I would suggest, similar to some others, giving it a nice clear front page, properly designed, providing a very clear indication of what you can access from it, and call it something bland like "Internal" or "Stuff". And market it, with the bland name. Then, when people start to understand what it is for, invite suggestions for a name, and relaunch - ideally, including something else that is new or revamped at the same time.

Assess the names, and find something that works for people. You may end up with "Stuff" long term, but if the users are happy with that, then fine. Remember - the customer is always right. Bind, ignorant, stupid probably, but always right. With a bit of help from you.

Incidentally, if you can do a poll and NOT let management decide which names are acceptable, that is generally far better. Fun names are often better, if they work.

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If management believes "everyone knows it as XWEB" but this is incorrect, video some interviews with staff members where you ask them what XWEB is. Edit the responses together into a short video clip to make the point.

You could include some management figures answering the same question at the start, but you might prefer to avoid the risk of making anyone appear foolish.

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