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Building a SharePoint intranet can put your organization closer to the valuable data it relies on. However, making the most of this access is easier said than done. There are hundreds of ways that your organization may choose to organize your intranet, but no single approach is perfect for every team.

Total Solutions helps clients across many sectors and sizes build effective SharePoint intranets. Our team continuously applies the lessons we learn across our variety of clients. Here are four misconceptions that our team has learned to address in our years of intranet consulting on Microsoft SharePoint.

Building Navigation Based on Departments and Teams

Effective navigation helps ensure that users can find what they are looking for quickly. Building navigation based off your organization’s structure may make sense on the surface, but it is not always the best approach to take.

Organizing your intranet by department may make sense when collaborating within teams, but your intranet is designed to bridge connections across teams and departments. Senior Designer Drew Fitzpatrick says that it is important to deeply consider user associations with content instead of relying on assumptions that may not be true.

“It is easy in intranet design to assume that everyone sees the content in your organization in the same way,” he said. “Good navigation should align with the associations that your users have between different types of content, reflecting how your organization actually works together instead of an org chart.”

SharePoint Intranet Design
Figure 1 – SharePoint Intranet Design

Talking with your users while building navigation can ensure that it reflects the way your organization associates content areas, while also increasing buy-in for the intranet you are building. 365 Navigation is a tool in the Total Solutions 365 Adoption Toolkit that makes it easy to build an attractive navigation experience that goes beyond than the department-level.

Not Focusing on the Content That Users Demand

Your intranet home page acts like the busiest intersection in your town. If the major intersections of your intranet are too cluttered, then users may avoid those areas when finding what they need. The place they need to go may be an easy right turn if they are willing to navigate the traffic, but some users will choose to take the long way just to keep moving, or just stop trying to drive there altogether.

Content juxtaposition
Figure 2 – SharePoint Intranet Content

No matter how much valuable content your intranet has, users can be impatient when finding answers to questions about their work. Content like your company’s mission and values are important to highlight, but we have found that users often crave content that will adjust with each visit, accounting for their interests and new announcements at the organization.

It is important to strike a balance between content curated by your organization and content that your users want. If your users expect new content whenever they use your intranet, then it will keep your team coming back to your intranet, driving adoption in the process.

Building the Field of Dreams Intranet

We have all heard that “If you build it, they will come.” That may be true in baseball, but it is not always the case with intranets. If your intranet is not built collaboratively with your users, then it will be hard to convince your organization of its value.

Common Intranet Trap
Figure 3 – “Field of Dreams” Intranet

Building a great intranet is something that digital transformation leaders love, but casual users may not care about. Fitzpatrick says that a tool like the intranet is only effective when users think it is valuable, a fact that needs to be central when designing a SharePoint intranet.

“It is important to avoid the trap of building for your users,” he said. “If you don’t give users good reasons to use your intranet, then they won’t use it. The best way to find those reasons is by keeping users involved throughout the process.”

Intranet decisions can be difficult to make, but you can’t make the right decisions without user feedback. Make sure to build time, space, and budget to constantly consider user feedback when building your SharePoint intranet so that your organization gets an intranet that provides value in the right places.

Ignoring the Numbers When Making Tough Decisions

Making decisions about your intranet is difficult, so it is important be able to evaluate those decisions and adjust course if needed. Data about how your intranet is used can be the difference between a static intranet that doesn’t adjust to the needs of your team and one that can easily adapt to the needs of your users.

SharePoint offers a few data sources that your team can use out-of-the-box. Site Usage Analytics can display data of your site’s usage within the past 7, 30, or 90 days. You can track which pages have been most popular, visualize overall traffic during these periods of time, and export reports on this data that you can view and share in Excel.

Out of the Box SharePoint Analytics
Figure 4 – Site Usage Analytics

Out-of-the-box data is easy to gather on a site-by-site basis to help make informed decisions about your intranet. 365 Analytics is another tool in the Total Solutions 365 Adoption Toolkit that goes beyond what is available out-of-the-box, making it easy to visualize common user journeys, track popular SharePoint searches, and track other unique metrics that make it easier to analyze your intranet’s performance and make data-driven decisions.

SharePoint Intranet Behavior Flow
Figure 5 – Behavior Flow

Addressing these misconceptions relies on a user-first approach to your SharePoint intranet that can incorporate user feedback and adjust quickly. Total Solutions embraces design thinking and agile delivery to address these misconceptions and constantly learn. If your organization wants to revamp its SharePoint intranet, then call or reach out to our team to learn more about how our expertise can support your organization.