Producing an engaging SharePoint design is essential.
Thanks to smartphones and tablets, people’s usability and design expectations are higher than ever. Intranets are sometimes average to look at, and suffer from poor usability. People are very familiar with looking at beautiful digital things, like the phone that's frequently in your hand which combines beauty and usability almost to perfection.
If design and usability are not prioritised, people will ﬁnd engaging with your intranet diﬃcult. Users can lose their trust in the IT department if they see something that’s old or outdated because they know that usability should not come at the cost of appearance.
Many times we have consulted with staff who have created a large wish list for their newly designed SharePoint intranet. They complain that certain features or functionality aren’t available on the current site, but having reviewed the site, we find that these features actually already exist. So with nothing more than a new look and usability improvement from a SharePoint designer, the new site can be a vast improvement, with users finding what they need.
Here are a few key principles for the SharePoint designer:
- Responsive design is essential – consider usability from mobile devices
- Avoid making things too crowded, always provide space
- People tend to scan rather than read, so avoid having too much content if possible
- Suitable use of colors and brand
- Create a balance on pages, and keep in mind the scale of images and their proximity to textual content and every other
- Create repetition with the usage of design factors constantly so people understand what elements represent
- And in SharePoint, make it look not so “SharePointy” 😊
Designers normally do not understand SharePoint, so their designs tend to have some issues when it comes to actually building the platform. If an intranet is developed to an intricate design, this will be an issue for content authors who now may additionally need to learn code to update their material. It’s hard enough to keep your content fresh without your SharePoint design causing extra problems.
Alternatives for the SharePoint Intranet Designer include.
The Bare Minimum Intranet design
If you absolutely do not have any budget, one option is to leave it entirely out of the box. However, with a bit of tweaking, you can still at least upload a logo, modify the background and the colour scheme. When you purchase a ready-to-go intranet like Injio, there are templates readily available for you to select, you may choose to adjust one suitable to your needs or use it as is.
Optimal SharePoint Design
It would be great if you have your own internal designers or have that budget to hire a design agency. But don’t let these designers off without discussing with a SharePoint designer consultant who completely understands the platform they're designing for, otherwise they may design elements which can be technically challenging to develop.
Also, design by committee can be an unpleasant experience for any designer, so try to limit your input of the design to a small group, and ideally those who comprehend design principles.
Design It Yourself solutions
When selecting a ready-to-go intranet product, one of the selling points may be that users can choose colours, layouts and fonts yourself in developing any page or content. Although some marketing departments are very much tempted to go for this solution, unless your content authors are also designers, the end outcomes will probably be unattractive.
Intranet pages need to look consistent; or else end users get confused.
It is important to be consistent with the use of elements such as fonts, colours, layouts, backgrounds, underlines, italics, hover effects, and click effects to avoid becoming responsible for eye torture and headaches.
In creating an intranet, it is also important to take away the thinking part for people, so it should be something they have no difficulty navigating. This, of course, is tied directly with Information Architecture, but despite good IA, it’s still possible to make a mess of usability.
“Making pages self-evident is like having good lighting in a store: it just makes everything seem better. Using a site that doesn't make us think about unimportant things feels effortless, whereas puzzling over things that don't matter to us tends to sap our energy and enthusiasm - and time.”
Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think
It is imperative that your intranet be interpreted easily and that your design supports the function of the platform.
Principles for basic web usability include:
Value Users need to obtain value based from what they are engaging with
Simplicity Remove unnecessary elements and reduce clutter
Visibility Reveal the features people need to see and lessen focus on the rest
Self-driven Build a solution where people can figure it out without needing help
Organisation Use suitable structure and group appropriate content together
Sequencing Organise the content in a way that has a beginning and end, so users can identify where they are in a process. Content should flow from the most important in the top left-hand corner, to the least frequently read at the bottom. This F-Shape reading pattern applies to all web content including mobile content.
Usability and SharePoint design isn’t something that you can disregard with your Digital Workplace. It is important not to assume that people have the time and know-how to figure out your Digital Workplace signs. Recruit a SharePoint Designer and UX designer if you can, and make sure it's a priority.