Note: These heuristics relate to the underlying management of the intranet, rather than to the design or structure of the site. These can only be evaluated by the intranet team themselves, or through discussions with the intranet team (and other key stakeholders). It is not possible to assess these heuristics based on a visual evaluation of the site.
This section is therefore optional, recognising that it may not be practical (or possible) in all situations to gain the necessary information to make an informed evaluation. Wherever possible, however, steps should be taken to review against these criteria.
SCORING AT A GLANCE: 0 = extremely poor, not implemented • 1 = very poor • 2 = poor • 3 = good • 4 = very good • 5 = excellent, exceeds criteria
There is a clearly defined set of goals for the intranet
A clearly defined set of goals or objectives provides focus for the ongoing evolution of the intranet. These should be business-focused, beyond just “provide staff with the information they need to do their job” or “provide a one-stop shop” for information.
The intranet goals should be published on the intranet itself, and aligned with overall organisational strategies and directions.
0: There are no defined intranet goals.
5: Intranet goals are defined, reviewed on a regular basis and used to inform intranet strategy. The intranet goals are business-focused, are aligned with organisational strategies, and there are metrics or measures defined for each goal.
There is a clear roadmap for future intranet development
There should be a clear (and documented) roadmap for future development of the intranet, covering the next 6-12 months. This should specify planned improvements to the site, along with ongoing activities to sustain the site.
The roadmap should cover both content and IT related improvements to the site, as well as indicating resources required from other teams (such as corporate communications, HR, and IT).
0: No defined plans have been created for future intranet improvements, and changes are made on an ad-hoc or reactive basis.
5: There is a clearly defined roadmap for intranet development, covering a 6-12 month period. This includes specific enhancements, required resources, and expected benefits.
The intranet has an clear owner and sponsor
A single owner or manager overseeing the entire intranet ensures consistency, and can resolve conflicts amongst stakeholders. It should also ensure that there is a clear direction and strategy for the intranet.
The intranet owner should have responsibility for key aspects of the intranet (such as the home page and staff directory), as well as ‘driving’ the overall evolution of the intranet.
There should also be a recognised executive ‘sponsor’ for the intranet, providing overall resources, support and guidance. This sponsor also helps to resolve differences or disputes between intranet stakeholders.
0: There is no clear intranet owner or sponsor. Alternatively, there may be multiple areas of the business competing for control of the intranet.
5: The intranet has a single owner that is empowered to resolve all intranet issues and drive intranet strategy. There is also a clear executive sponsor for the site.
There is a single point of contact for the intranet
There should be a single point of contact for the intranet, thereby simplifying the communication process and ensuring that needed updates are made. Note that this is in addition to the content owners listed on individual pages.
0: There is no single point of contact for the intranet, or no clear mechanism for contacting the centralised intranet team.
5: There is a clear single point of contact for the intranet as a whole. A forms-based feedback mechanism has been established on the intranet to allow changes or errors to be easily notified.
The intranet team has the necessary skills and resources
The intranet team must be of an appropriate size to manage the intranet, and be equipped with a sufficiently broad range of skills to address all intranet needs and issues. The intranet team must also be provided with enough resources to be effective (including budget, IT tools and support).
The intranet team must be able to address not just day-to-day administration of the site, but to also be able to develop strategies for the intranet, and to enhance the site over time.
(See the commentary for a discussion on the necessary skills and size for intranet teams.)
0: The intranet team is under-sized and under-resourced, and is not able to keep up with day-to-day administration of the site.
5: The intranet team has the skills and resources to strategically manage the site, including enhancing the site with new content and tools. The intranet team is proactive, and is professional in their management of the site.
There are a comprehensive set of policies and procedures for the intranet
There should be a clearly-defined and comprehensive set of policies and procedures covering the design and management of the intranet. These should cover aspects such as:
Writing standards and other publishing guidelines
Appropriate (and inappropriate) intranet content and tools
Guidelines for inclusion on the intranet home page
Overall intranet governance and management
Staff should be able to access the intranet policies and procedures on the intranet itself.
0: There are no documented intranet policies and procedures.
5: A comprehensive list of intranet policies and procedures is documented and available via the intranet.
It is important to track the overall usage of the intranet, to allow problems to be identified, and to support ongoing improvements to the site. These usage statistics also allow the relevant importance and value of intranet content to be assessed.
At the simplest level, this should include the tracking of intranet usage, such as total usage, most popular pages, etc. This capability is provided by a wide range of free and commercial ‘web statistics’ packages.
In addition to site statistics, search engine usage reports should also be put in place. Two specific reports should be implemented as a minimum:
Most popular searches. Shows the most popular terms entered into the search engine, on a month-by-month basis.
Failed searches. Lists the searches that returned 0 hits.
0: Intranet usage is not tracked or reported, either in terms of overall site usage or search engine usage.
5: Comprehensive usage statistics have been put in place for the intranet as a whole, as well as allowing individual reports to be generated for specific site sections. The two search engine reports outlined above have also been implemented. Processes have been put in place to regularly review the reports, and to act on the results.
The impact and business value of the intranet is regularly measured
Beyond the usage statistics outlined in the previous heuristic, more business-focused metrics should be used to allow the business benefits of the intranet to be measured.
These metrics may allow a dollar value to be calculated for the benefits delivered by the intranet (enabling return on investment to be determined). In other cases, it may be more appropriate to demonstrate value in non quantitative ways.
(For example, measures could include the reduction in calls to the help desk, or the improvement in staff productivity.)
0: No business metrics have been determined (or measured) for the intranet.
5: A range of business-focused metrics are used to report on the tangible benefits delivered by the site. Processes have been put in place to regularly collect the metrics, and to act on the results.
A communications and marketing plan has been established for the intranet
Ongoing communications are required to drive further awareness and usage of the intranet. This includes outlining the purpose and benefits of the intranet, as well as promoting intranet ‘success stories’.
An overall communications and marketing plan should be put in place to ensure that these activities are coordinated and effective.
0: There are few (if any) communications to the wider organisation about the use or benefits of the intranet.
5: A coordinated communications and marketing plan has been established, as is used to ensure that regular messages are sent to staff outlining the use, benefits and successes of the intranet.
An authoring community has been established for the intranet
A “community of practice” should be established for the intranet that brings together the centralised intranet team with decentralised authors. Meeting regularly (such as monthly), this group as a whole takes responsibility for resolving intranet issues and setting intranet policies.
Experience across many organisations has shown that this type of group is critical to the success of the intranet, and it can do much to resolve the challenges relating to writing and managing content in a decentralised environment.
(See the commentary for more on the role of the authoring community of practice.)
5: An intranet community of practice has been established and meets regularly. This groups works cohesively to manage and improve the intranet.
Intranet strategy and management (percentage score)
There are a number of key websites which provide invaluable information regarding the design and management of intranets. In addition to providing background details on the heuristics included in this toolkit, these resources cover broader issues of intranet management and strategy.
The Intranet Review Toolkit website (www.IntranetReviewToolkit.org) provides a commentary on many of the heuristics, as well as links to further articles, reports, books and sites. This provides greater information on the guidelines included in this document, as well as best-practice suggestions and approaches.
The Information Architecture Institute www.iainstitute.org
A non-profit volunteer organisation dedicated to advancing and promoting information architecture. Provides a range of useful resources, mailing lists and industry activities.
Step Two Designs www.steptwo.com.au/papers
Currently the most prolific publishers of intranet articles, covering all aspects of intranet design, strategy and management. Also provides reports and training courses.
Boxes and Arrows www.boxesandarrows.com
Provides a comprehensive resource on information architecture, including practical guides on common techniques such as card sorting, along with discussions of more advance information architecture principles. Additional articles are published on a regular basis.
Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g)
Publishes reports and articles that specifically address the usability of intranets, which is one of the main elements of an intranet review. Also provides information on fundamental usability principles and techniques.
This report provides a practical methodology for improving intranet search, including a wide range of guidelines and approaches that cover every aspect of the search solution. All of the recommendations are designed to be within the reach of every intranet team, and do not require in-depth technical knowledge or unlimited budgets.
Provides in-depth information on the design and management of intranet staff directories (also known as phone directories or online phone books). Includes screenshots from a range of sites, along with best-practice guidelines.
Don’t Make Me Think (2nd edition)
An excellent introduction to the key principles of usability, providing numerous examples and practical techniques. Highly relevant for the designers and maintainers of any intranet (or website).
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (2nd edition)
Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville
The definitive book on information architecture, covering all the major elements of the discipline, and the key techniques. Provides numerous examples and case studies.
Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web Christina Wodtke
A strong introduction to information architecture, providing practical examples, photographs and screenshots. Explores the key techniques for designing effective sites, showing how these fit together in real-world projects.