New intranet home page design 101 Part 4: Maintaining and Improving Your Baby

You’ve finally gotten to the launch of your new intranet home page; congratulations! Now you have to start planning for the long-term. Maintaining your new intranet home page design means user feedback, change management, updates, and keeping an eye on your metrics. If you let any of the maintenance fall behind, there will be consequences. And this is another opportunity to point out that strict ownership of the new intranet home page will ensure a better experience, as long as that person or group is genuine when reviewing feedback and later input.

Change management

Preparing for your roll-out of your new intranet home page, you should definitely prep your users ahead of time. Emails, signs, contests, and other engaging experiences will keep the change at the front of their mind, prepping them for what may be a notable change in how they lead their day. Don’t forget that the home page is usually the first webpage that loads when they open their browser. A change to that design and layout is impactful. Think about how much your friends and family complain and talk about when even a minor change is made to consumer websites like Facebook.

Feedback

If you’ve created an effective feedback mechanism, you’ll get responses. If you work for a large organization, you may get a lot of responses. It’s helpful to have numerical feedback scores so you can average them and get a big-picture view of overall satisfaction. But always allow for free form responses because you’ll get some really helpful suggestions.

You’ll also get some really useless complaints. Consider yourself forewarned. Don’t take them personally. But do take them seriously (at least at first).

As suggestions and requests come in, respond insightfully and forcefully, especially if there was a reason that the request wasn’t implemented originally. Also make sure to run any suggestions and requests by the home page team. Try not to make unilateral decisions: changes to something like an intranet home page can have major impacts on people, especially as they’re only just getting used to the new experience. Unintended consequences are your enemy and having other opinions and viewpoints can help avoid a landline.

If you do decide to turn down a request or suggestion, make sure to respond openly and justify the decision. You’ll have to worry about some feelings along the way. The most likely and common request will be more links in the global navigation menu. But you can’t add new links willy-nilly; menus need to be concise and only display the links that have an impact on a large majority of users. Otherwise, they become way too long and their entire reason for being—quickly and easily finding important links—is overrun by too many low-value links.

The second most-common requests will be to submit news. You should have a news submission process. The news web part (and the news Hub Site rollup web part) can be really useful for getting information from around the organization bubbled up to the corporate-level home page. But you don’t want everything. Your submission and review process should allow a skeptical eye for any submissions and score them based on impact to the organization, interest, and a positive viewpoint. You will get complaints from people you deny. You just have to get used to it and stand your ground if your home page team agrees.

Metrics

You want to know how many people are visiting your new intranet home page how long they’re staying, their return frequency, what they’re clicking, and where they’re coming from.

Google Analytics is the gold standard for website metrics. I definitely recommend adding a GA tag to your site; it may require someone with coding experience to set up, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Other than that, there are some simple SharePoint metrics you can use; the better metrics come from the SharePoint admin center, which requires administrative access within Office 365.

Heat maps are also critical for understanding which parts of your page are most engaging. A tool like HotJar can be really useful for getting this data and it’s presented in an easy-to-understand color range where blue are uninteresting parts of the page and red are very interesting parts.

But what do you do with the metrics? First, you want to get a baseline of how many people come daily after the first week. Once the new factor settles, you’ll find a regular pattern of visitors. You’ll be surprised to find that some days of the week bring more people. Sometimes it’s random; other times it’s very obvious based on local policies (some companies offer a 9/80 schedule where you can take every other Friday off; generally you see half the users you would any other day).

Once you have a baseline of visitors, users, and visit length, you can start strategizing to increase that. Now of course you don’t want the home page to be as addictive as Facebook, otherwise nobody would be doing work. But you invested in this project to ensure people stay informed, that communications are top-notch, and that people can find things. Aiming to increase your turnout is a good goal.

So the delta is important. And you can’t calculate a delta without a baseline. So make sure you have your metrics solution in place by the time you’ve launched!

Improvements

Your project isn’t done once you launch. You have to iterate on based on the metrics you see. With your heat map and site analytics, you can start to do some testing on your design, including A/B testing (where you provide some users one view of the page and other users a version just slightly different to see which they engage with more and therefore prefer).

If you notice that certain aspects of your site are not used, you should try to find out whether they’re uninteresting or just difficult to use; there’s a big difference. Many of these improvements will come from feedback and requests. Some will come from feature updates, especially given the frequency of new tools that are rolled out by SharePoint Online.

The big takeaway here is to not just let your new home page stagnate and become old. People notice. And a lack of dedication to the home page eventually leads to a worse experience and lower engagement.

Conclusion

You’ve reached the end! Or maybe it’s actually the beginning. Once you’ve rolled out your new intranet home page, you have to nurture it. Kind of like a baby. Understand where it succeeds and where it fails. Then act on that information. Provide new features and test new ideas. See what sticks to the wall and what falls flat. Then build on those successes (and those failures).

As you move forward with your new home page, you’ll eventually need to think about the next iteration of it. And I don’t just mean minor updates in SharePoint Online. Eventually you’ll want an overhaul. Perhaps it even becomes a necessity due to changes to how SharePoint Online works.

At that point, it’s time to turn back to page one of this series and begin anew. The life cycle of an intranet home page is never ending. Pass on a quality product that can then be improved even more so in its next life, following best practices that should outlive any delivered project.

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If you missed Matt’s earlier pieces on intranet home page design, you can catch up on the previous three  here. Get started with part one right now! You can follow up with Part two and Part three as well.

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Intranet projects are a lot of work but are an integral part of internal culture and productivity. Let’s help get you started on the right foot with Valo Intranet. See why our intranet in-a-box solution can not only get you started but bring your digital workplace to new heights too!

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