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I am researching Intranet pages, and so far I've only found generic, outdated articles, and close to no showcase examples (maybe not so strange since Intranet pages are internal?)

Does anyone know great showcase examples with really modern, up-to-date, great-looking approaches to making an Intranet?

Or examples of companies that made revolutionary twists, doing completely new, out-of-the-box innovations for Intranets, by using apps, HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript, or by daring to think different?

I'll even be interested in hearing if someone says that Intranets are a dead-end concept, and how other technologies can replace it.

Edit #1: Further research seems to reveal that it's not about "Intranet" anymore, but "Enterprise Social Networks". Basically, a bunch of software solutions for the workplace that all look like Facebook. In addition to this there's a grey area of CMS, Document Handling Suites, Corporate Instant Messengers, email, apps, and you're starting to wonder how anyone gets anything done these days.

Edit #2: I'd also like to hear people's experiences on trying to customize a ESN solution to fit the company's needs. Do you end up with lots of surplus functionality no-one needs and workflows that are almost-but-not-just right? Are you better off developing a tailor-made solution from scratch (if time and money are available)?

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closed as too broad by Matt Obee, Charles Wesley, rk., msanford, greenforest Sep 7 '13 at 20:18

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
I'm a little concerned that you may be focusing a bit too much on the technology and looks. While important, the biggest failings of most intranets is content (outdated, irrelevant), usability (poor search tools, poor navigation, poor IA), and lack of functionality. –  DA01 Sep 4 '13 at 17:59
    
I take for granted that content and usability must be good. What I'm after is how to shape things, and new ways of approaching corporate interaction. What comes after the current "Facebook for work" wave? –  forthrin Sep 4 '13 at 19:12

7 Answers 7

I'm guessing this question will be locked, because it's a "shopping around" type question, but have a look at what Atlassian does. Their products are top notch.

Intranets have fragmented anyways. So many companies focus on such tiny niches, that it's hard to compete with them by building a very general application that does it all.

So again, look at any solid app for niches like accounting, project management, wikis, etc.

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Thanks for an excellent tip! I wish SE would be more open towards generic questions. They do serve a point, too! Especially when leads are hard to find elsewhere. –  forthrin Sep 4 '13 at 7:01
    
I'll piggyback on this recommendation and suggest you also take a look at igloosoftware.com - their product is billed as 'an intranet you'll actually like.' –  Gordon Kennedy Sep 4 '13 at 15:06

As a SharePoint consultant (a biased one) you can always take a look at public facing web sites which will give you an idea what's possible. The only thing that differs an external web site and an intranet is the anonymous access.

So turn your browser to SharePoint 2013 Websites:

At this point, after almost one year since its preview release, we have to acknowledge that SharePoint 2013 has a multitude of upgrades and new features. But the area that received the most significant facelift is the branding part. HTML5 and CSS3 compatibility in combination with the use of Design Manager empower web developers and designers by offering a wide variety of design choices in their SharePoint projects.

If you’re a web designer who has some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript knowledge, you already have the skills necessary to brand a SharePoint 2013 website. The latest Publishing Site features reduce the amount of SharePoint knowledge that is essential to successfully design and brand a SharePoint site.

The following list presents you with the latest public-facing SharePoint 2013 websites submitted to our constantly updated SharePoint showcase.

In SharePoint 2013 you can implement HTML5 and CSS3, meaning anything you want is possible, but be careful. SharePoint is a huge framework, and it takes a very long time to master design. Branding time takes (up to) five times longer in SharePoint than developing a design from nothing.

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Thanks for pointing out upsides and downsides. Please delete the inline image as it feels like an advertisement. –  forthrin Sep 4 '13 at 10:55
    
@forthrin Done! –  Benny Skogberg Sep 4 '13 at 10:56
    
As an ex-sharepoint admin, RUN AWAY FROM SHAREPOINT. Seriously. It's bloatware, lacking polish in a lot of its features, and a serious nightmare to customize beyond the basic templating system. –  DA01 Sep 4 '13 at 16:49
    
@DA01 That's who you should configure SharePoint, not code against it. Branding, however is OK in 2013. –  Benny Skogberg Sep 4 '13 at 18:45
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@DA01 They stopped using HTML-tables. Yes, it's the year 2013. Whoooooaaaaa! –  Benny Skogberg Sep 4 '13 at 18:59

I'll even be interested in hearing if someone says that Intranets are a dead-end concept, and how other technologies can replace it.

Intranets have fragmented anyways. So many companies focus on such tiny niches, that it's hard to compete with them by building a very general application that does it all.

I agree; not only do businesses usually intra-connect several connections through bridges or leave the solo, it is from my experience a bad idea to offer full-fledged services to established businesses. While I personally would prefer one of a kind intranet, it is not possible.

In my company (>2200 employees in wholesale business) I have rebuilt our intranet for the purpose of documenting bureau and non-bureau specific operating cycles, a wiki, a news section, documentation and releases hidden for special groups (CEO's, Managers, IT Department, ..etc.). People can easily login with the same credentials they use for their windows login (Active Directory bridged done through LDAP) and is globally maintained by the marketing office.

Now this all sounds dandy and fun but only 40% (After analysis) use it on a regular basis—Most people just use it to login into other programs (it has a section to several programs for accounting, business trails, managers, etc.). Reasons for this is that people don't actually know that there is information they could make use of or are misinformed and the offices are blatantly neglecting it - rather using a one-line E-Mail to ask a question which is fully documented there. That's not too much of a big deal since the ones maintaining it love it since I have used most of the developing time into making it very easy to post pages, edit them, update them, look at revisions and they rarely ever need to use any HTML since most goes through Markdown or has special made shortcodes.

I know another big company in Germany for insurances where they actually achieved that "No matter what you need, it is at maximum three clicks" - and when I saw the backbone I was impressed of how good it is.

HTML/CSS/JavaScript/PHP/CMS is from my personal experience the best way to bring an intranet forward.

So what's the real say here? Intranets are good, but they have to have some kind of necessary use to them. If they're only optional then nobody will use it. For selling them, they need (this is my personal criteria) these points:

  • Must have a bridge / connectivity possibility to other programs (That may be through SQL, an API, LDAP, etc.)
  • Must be documented and easily understandable for others
  • Easy to use
  • Some kind of necessity for being used
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Anything that helps the people who are instructed to use it do their jobs better, and which, when people use it, enhances their effectiveness at doing their job. In a nutshell, a social job aid.

Let's think about what an intranet in 2013 shouldn't look like.

Hey, someone in senior management heard about [intranet system] and decided to buy it! Now you have yet another inbox/set of notifications to check, so you're living out of your inbox and the company's intranet. And now people are asking you whether you read that thing that they emailed you and posted on the intranet, because there's no clearly-defined policy regarding which communiqués belong in which medium — and besides, lots of the people who've worked here for years still send emails and attachments, because it's easier than figuring out the new system, even though they've supposedly been on the training course. (Of course, if you do have an intranet if you really want people to live there, you could ban email.) The number of potential interruptions to your productivity has now skyrocketed (when you remember to check all the groups you subscribed to, although there seems to be some duplication). Also, you're supposed to be documenting everything now that there is somewhere for that information to live, but this takes up a lot of your time; a lot of meetings are now spent discussing how to structure this online documentation and what the workflow should be to ensure people don't duplicate effort, but that everyone also gets to read everything as the documentation evolves.

If you can build an intranet that is the opposite of this experience, I'd say you're doing okay. Admittedly, for it to really work well, you might also need to build a company that behaves in the opposite way to many of the ones doing business today. Then again, maybe a great and appropriately-featured/-used intranet can transform how a company operates.

Slight tangent: it's worth considering this piece that @14_1 linked to today, on the real reasons people hate their CMS. As an exercise, try substituting "intranet" for "CMS" :o)

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Recent developments have been less about being modern and great looking, and more about making information usable, findable, accessible on multiple devices (tablets, smartphones) etc. There's also been an interest in making content creation easier to manage - easier to reuse/repurpose content in different pages, easier to write etc. Improving the content, and making it more relevant to the context in which it will be used.

If you search on phrases like "component content management systems", "BLOBS vs chunks" and DITA, you may find some interesting approaches.

Jakob Nielsen publishes a list of best intranets each year. See http://www.nngroup.com/articles/intranet-design/

If you want to dive into looking at software tools, then I agree Atlassian's Confluence platform is very good.

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Has anyone read Nielsen's reports? I had a look at a preview and it looked really dull. Are there great screenshots of great work? Is the insight groundbreaking or stating the obvious? –  forthrin Sep 4 '13 at 13:07
    
@forthrin I didn't see this answer before I posted mine. (apologies, Ellis!) I have used the NNG Intranet reports in the past. Of course they're dull (intranets are dull!) :) But they are quite useful with lots of quotable data points and a LOT of screen shots. (But don't focus on screen shots. The key is content, functionality, and usability) –  DA01 Sep 4 '13 at 17:56

The Nielsen Norman Group has been doing exhaustive intranet design reports annually for quite some time now. I've used their intranet reports in the past and found them useful. While you may not glean a whole lot of new information as a UX professional, it is a great way to validate and cite a lot of your knowledge (the age old problem in many organizations is that if you say it, it's just your opinion. If you quote a 'consulting firm' then it's gospel. :) )

http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet-design-annual/

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Looking for showcase examples is pretty difficult considering large companies hold their internal strategies so close to their chest.

A good place to look for examples is looking for design industry awarding bodies, such as the Design Business Association or many others that exist across the world, and then particularly awards for internal communications.

You can find some screenshot examples of a great intranet made by a design agency here. Browse through their other work and you'll also see many great examples of employee engagement with sparse, but good reasoning and explanation.

I have no commercial affiliation with these companies.

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