Implementing a corporate intranet requires a team of designers, architects and developers working together, applying their disparate skills and perspectives to determine the best platform to use in addressing your business needs and objectives.
When it’s time to design the user interface (UI), you want to apply a problem-solving approach, using research to identify and validate problems as new issues emerge in the UI design. Essentially, you’re working with business objective research, user research and brand research. Understanding the brand is vital in developing the visual design for the UI.
For a corporate intranet, the goal of brand research is to understand how people perceive the organization from the inside, so that the visual design aligns with that perception or elevates that perception, if that’s one of your business objectives. UI design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s important to make design decisions that reflect the intent of the project and all work done thus far.
Here are three useful exercises at the UI design stage:
Task flow diagrams: In this exercise, you follow the process of how a user is going to complete a task. Starting with the beginning of the task, you map out the actions they perform and the intended outcomes. Task flow diagrams aren’t common, but are highly effective in helping you to understand what’s important to users and their current obstacles, and how to best alleviate them through your visual design, interactive design and content design.
Wireframes: People often think of wireframes as a design mockup minus the colors, but that’s a problematic approach. Rather than a visual mockup of the design, the goal of a wireframe is to represent the bare bones of the design: a hierarchy of what exists on the page and the priority of that content.
Sometimes people create content diagrams that show this hierarchy, which could be considered a low-fidelity wireframe. Similarly, a visual comp could be considered a high-fidelity wireframe: It shows the visual hierarchy, but lacks the functionality of a prototype.
Prototypes: You could think of a prototype as essentially an interactive wireframe. They demonstrate the interaction design and how users will be able to interact with it. One of the advantages of prototypes is that they are often a viable alternative to exhaustive documentation. Instead of a usage scenario document that takes a paragraph to spell out how tabs should work, for instance, a prototype allows you to describe and demonstrate that functionality in an intuitive way.
If your budget allows, creating prototypes at multiple stages allows you to capture usability research throughout the process. You’ll get user feedback more quickly, allowing you to refine the prototype through several iterations until you finally have a prototype that’s effectively what you’re going to implement, at least for some key pages.
These three exercises are helpful in designing a UI that’s in alignment with your organization’s needs and intuitive for users to navigate.
Ready to learn more about implementing a corporate intranet at your organization? Download our free e-book, “Designing A User-Centered Intranet For SharePoint Online”.