Intranet Visual Design: Do Internal Platforms Need to Look Good?

If you’re a modern-day organisation, it’s highly likely you’ve got an intranet in some form. It could be as simple as a shared drive, or as complex as an online hub. But the bottom line for most people when building their intranet is practicality. What does this need to do, for who, and how? This means that what it looks like is often an afterthought. And we totally understand that when you’re just starting out, function wins over form every time. But intranet visual design has become a hot topic, especially with more remote workforces that rely on the intranet. 

But why does that matter? You’re not selling the intranet to your employees, right? They have to use it to get their work done. So why should you throw money, time, and expertise into making your intranet look good? 

Short answer: Employee experience. 

Long answer: You absolutely are selling to your employees, every day, and it goes a long way towards retaining them. 

Does that answer surprise you? Read on to discover why organisations are giving just as much attention to intranet visual design as they give to their customer-facing website.

A view from behind two women as they look at a laptop screen, a bright window in the background. Intranet visual design effects usability and engagement.

Why bother with intranet visual design?

Marketing forecasters have been saying it for years: pretty websites get more traffic. An attractive site has a natural appeal; customers are more likely to browse and return. There’s absolutely no reason this rule should just apply to the platforms your customers interact with. Depending on the industry or organisation, your employees may spend most of their day navigating your intranet. 

With more organisations made up of remote employees, it’s more important than ever to have a functional intranet that is easy and enjoyable to use. Research shows that employees will leave a job if they don’t feel engaged. Of course, if the intranet is home to resources, documents, policies and procedures etc., your employees will use it regardless. But why not use your intranet as more than just a filing cabinet in the cloud? Why not create an aesthetically pleasing hub, an online office space that encourages community and interaction? 

If your organisation has an office where staff physically come and go, consider this: do you have indoor plants? Art or posters on the walls? Colourful social spaces, nice carpets, or comfy couches? Now ask yourself why you did this. Was it for the handful of clients who come and go, who are escorted directly from reception to a meeting room? Or was it for your staff who spend eight hours, five days a week in that building? 

This same principle should apply to the online space. Make it pretty, and your employees will not just use the intranet because they have to – it’ll be because they enjoy being there. Be conscious about your intranet visual design.

Things to consider when designing your intranet

Practicality still applies

Colours, pictures, icons … all of these can make your intranet gorgeous. But of course, it still has to be functional. Usability is the most important aspect of good intranet design – without it, your employees won’t be able to find anything, regardless of how nice is looks. This functionality comes under the umbrella of information architecture. 

Ask your team for input

If you’re consulting with an IT partner to design your intranet, they’re going to need more than a basic brief to get the job done right. The right consultant will have conversations with your employees to understand how they currently navigate the intranet and listen to their input. By understanding this, the design can ensure eyes are drawn to frequently used buttons and links first. It will also highlight areas that need more promotion.

Respect the tech

Design shouldn’t interfere with the smooth running of your intranet. You still must account for storage space, upload speeds, and pages that are in line with your organisation’s style and branding. Function and form should work hand in hand, not compete with each other.

Avoid doing too much

Budgetary and creative freedom is great, but don’t overdo it. Readability is a major component of efficient workflows, so having white space makes it easier for people to scan and read content. It also feels cleaner and will keep clutter off the dashboard. Similarly, a clean and solid background will make important headlines, sections, and content stand out.

Use consistent fonts

Adjusting the background for readability is all well and good, but what about the font? It’s no use making other changes if the words on the page are too hard to read. This could be due to the style of font (sans-serif is widely accepted, but serif is preferred for longer passages). You should also consider the size of letters and the spacing around the words. Having the right font across your intranet increases productivity and absorption of information.

Should the intranet match the customer website?

In terms of consistency, it’s not a bad idea. Your customer site will have already been approved by higher ups, with colour schemes/logos/fonts sanctioned branding. If you’re doing the design in-house, you could duplicate page templates, colour schemes, buttons, etc. from the website. 

However, you could make a case that they don’t need to match at all. It depends on the goals of your intranet and who the intended user is. The intranet users, your employees, likely aren’t also clients or customers of your organisation. Therefore, the purpose of the intranet is not to guide the user through to an enquiry or sale. However, it does need to have an intuitive navigation that leads them where they need to be. 

It could also have a tonal difference. Many organisations maintain a professional, authoritative online presence for clients. However, they may wish to develop an entirely different culture amongst team members. Their intranet could feel more relaxed, welcoming, and fun – somewhere the team gets to interact with more personality.

Get started with intranet visual design

Does your intranet need a makeover? It’s never too late to give your platform a new coat of paint, and it’s easy with the right IT consultant on your side. At Propelle, our team of experts approach each intranet design with curiosity, creativity, and the skills to build beautiful platforms that have both form and function.