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Intranets Turn Web 2.0 Fads Into Sophisticated Features


Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 02:10 AM

Intranets typically avoid the over-hyped fads that wash across the Web, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, whose research firm Nielsen Norman Group today announced the winners of its seventh annual intranet design contest. This year, rather than avoid the Internet fads, including social networking and wikis, intranet design teams applied them in restrained ways that emphasized useful information. The result was the addition of sophisticated intranet features that expressed each company's culture and served the needs of individual employees better than ever before.

The world’s 10 best intranets named in this year’s contest provide numerous examples of the latest trends in intranet design and are each described in detail in Nielsen Norman Group’s “Intranet Design Annual 2007: The Year’s Ten Best Intranets,” co-authored by Nielsen and colleagues Kara Pernice Coyne, director of research and Mathew Schwartz, researcher.

"Websites often employ a trendy technology for its own sake rather than for any discernable benefit it affords the user. They shoot for glitz," said Jakob Nielsen, principal, Nielsen Norman Group. "This year, our intranet contest winners used the same trendy technologies, but they aimed instead for utility and pragmatism, and achieved them without any sacrifice to the coolness factor associated, for example, with an Ajax map that helps an employee find another employee with whom to carpool."

The 10 organizations with winning intranets are based in five different countries and have employee populations ranging in size from 1,500 to 383,000. In alphabetical order, they are: American Electric Power (US); Comcast (US); DaimlerChrysler AG (Germany); The Dow Chemical Company (US); Infosys Technologies Limited (India); JPMorgan Chase & Co. (US); Microsoft Corporation (US); National Geographic Society (US); The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK); Volvo Group (Sweden).

“We saw much larger organizations, averaging 90,000 employees, taking the lead this year in intranet design. Creating a cohesive and useful intranet for this many people is no easy feat, but the good news is that we saw correspondingly larger intranet teams, as many as 20 people, which indicates increased commitment from upper-level management to intranets,” said Kara Pernice Coyne, director of research, Nielsen Norman Group. "We've come a long way from the 'one IT employee posting the employee benefits PDF' days."

Highlights from Nielsen Norman Group’s 2007 Intranet Design Annual include:

Personalization: Almost all of the winning intranets offered extensive personalization features to streamline information delivery and present the right material to the right person's intranet desktop at the right time.

Improving work/life balance: Companies now include a substantial amount of information on their intranets that address their employees' personal life, providing information such as volunteer news, birth announcements, family-photo sharing and internal classified advertising.

Video and TV: More and more television-type offerings are being added to intranets, underscoring the idea that video is more personal than the written word. Some sites even have their own TV station.

“Intranet Design Annual 2007: The Year’s Ten Best Intranets,” which presents detailed case studies of the 10 winners, is available to download for $174 from the Nielsen Norman Group website at http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet/design.

About Nielsen Norman Group

Nielsen Norman Group (http://www.nngroup.com) is a user-experience research firm that advises companies on how to succeed through the human-centered design of products and services. Nielsen Norman Group principals Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman and Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini are each world-renowned experts in usability and human use of technology. Besides authoring books and evangelizing about user experience, they and the other user-experience specialists at Nielsen Norman Group offer high-level strategic consultation on usability of websites, consumer products, software designs and anything else that needs to be easy-to-use. Media contact: Darcy Provo, Antenna Group, [email protected], 415-977-1920.



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