Intranet portal design has evolved considerably as a result of Office 365 and SharePoint. As more organizations come to understand and embrace the Digital Workplace, employees expect a centralized, seamless user interface that they can access anywhere, anytime.
Guidelines for Intranet Portal Design on Office 365
1. Branding and the Intranet’s look and feel
In the past, Microsoft has made it clear that core to its Office 365 integration strategy is a common look and feel driven by its native themes and designs. For this reason they have repeatedly stated that customers should be using the native Office 365 branding capabilities.
The look and feel of Intranet portals need to follow the Office 365 experience as well as the native Office 365 themes and layouts. You can reference this guidance in the Microsoft Dev Center section, "SharePoint site branding and page customization solutions."
Microsoft has also reaffirmed the role of SharePoint Online as a core content management, storage, and workflow engine. The current blend of Microsoft's next generation portals - Groups, Delve, Video and others - are designed to be used individually or as an integrated part of an Intranet portal solution. They don’t require installation, are pre-scaled for the enterprise and are supported and, best of all, have rich answers for specific needs. However, these specific collaboration service portals by themselves do not provide an organization Intranet Portal. You still need to have a central portal or internal organization home page from which you can intuitively use these portals.
The Next Generation of Intranet Portal Design
With an Office 365 Digital Workplace and Microsoft next generation portals, your organization can drive collaboration, communication, and business process productivity through an Intranet portal structure in the following ways:
This integrated approach to Office 365 becomes the core piece of the puzzle that will ultimately drive user adoption on Office 365 and SharePoint while also improving the user experience.
A seamless experience for the user needs to exist whether using a SharePoint Online Intranet, Outlook, One Drive, or the Video portal. When alternating between the Intranet and Microsoft’s next generation portals, a unified feel should be in place with consistent colors and layouts driven by native Office 365 themes and design.
Don’t succumb to mesmerizing custom user interfaces built on top of SharePoint Online. Third parties that offer slick Intranet designs with their own UI are going to run into trouble. They provide their own master pages and CSS models that can be impacted by changes Microsoft is making every day to the branding core of Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
You can implement a good looking Intranet portal that is responsive across devices but also abides by the rules.
2. Integrated into business operations
To drive user adoption, your Intranet portal needs to be an integral part of your business operations. It’s not going to be enough to have just a nice home page with news and the latest documents. It needs to leverage the opportunity that Office 365 presents to integrate communications (news, email, chat, meetings), collaboration (documents, media, groups), and business processes.
Providing an attractive home page without operational portals for internal services, such as HR and IT, misses major productivity opportunities. These portals simplify employee interaction with internal departments while also providing consistent service request, policy management and other company-wide functions.
3. Drive automated proactive content and collaboration across the organization
One challenge with a successful Intranet is providing timely and relevant content. If there is no interesting content on the Intranet, usage is going to decline.
Tracking the latest sales win or the newest employee promotion can be time-consuming. This is especially problematic for small- to medium-size businesses with limited resources for seeking out and publishing new content.
However, content can be automatically generated if you extend your Intranet structure to include business operations. Operational events, such as new customers, new employees, and project completion can be captured from business applications like Events and Announcements from various department portals.
Imagine if your CRM could automatically generate a new win notification that lets the Intranet Content Administrator display it instantly under Company News?
Or, what if you could leverage Delve to alert the sales team when a new competitive sales write up was created? Proactive content is a way to keep the home page fresh and engaging.
Integrating the ability to capture content directly from operational resources from operational portals is key to keeping content fresh, engaging and proactive.
4. Flexible to take advantage of Office 365 components
You need a flexible Intranet portal solution that will take advantage of the service portals. If you have a central document sharing site on SharePoint Online, know that it might be replaced by the next generation Knowledge Portal. Or, your employee directory might be replaced with the Delve People Portal.
If your portals are built natively on SharePoint Online, they can easily be changed and updated in time. However, if they’re coded add-ons to SharePoint Online with their own UX, integrating with the new portals is going to be a challenge.
As you begin to implement your first Intranet or upgrade your existing portal with Office 365, think about the bigger picture of the Intranet’s role in your organization and how you can position it to take advantage of the great advances Microsoft is making with Office 365.
If you want to accelerate your Intranet solution deployment, take a look at SP Marketplace and SP Digital Workplace Solutions, an out-of-the-box set of next generation operational portals that transform how your organization does business in the cloud.