The 10 Things That Actually Matter When Planning Your Intranet

Resources > 10 Things That Matter

Rachel Kaplowitz, CEO of Honey

Hi, I’m Rachel Kaplowitz, the CEO of Honey. Yeah, it’s kinda weird that as a 30-something-year-old, I’m the founder of an intranet startup. Because, let’s be honest — people don’t normally bring up intranets when they’re talking about innovative new technology. And for good reason. They haven’t evolved in nearly twenty years.

That’s actually how I got here in the first place.

I started Honey with a small group of engineers and designers back when we worked at a design agency in Brooklyn. We grew quickly, expanding to 11 offices around the world. As a result, information was scattered all over the place, email was out of control, and nobody had any clue what was going on. We needed an intranet.

The problem was, we hated all of them.

We were a technology-obsessed design agency with zero tolerance for clunky software or outdated design principles. I’m pretty sure people would have quit if we made them use something called an “employee portal.”

After researching available options, we realized that what we wanted did not exist. We wanted something that would make staying connected with work feel fun and personal. More like staying up to date with our friends or interests — like how we used Twitter and Reddit. We wanted something that looked nice — that elevated the creative work that we were so proud of. And we wanted something that connected with the other tools that we used, so we weren’t creating yet another information silo.

So that’s exactly what we did. We threw out the formula intranets have followed for twenty years. And, instead, drew inspiration from the tech we used and loved in our everyday, personal lives.

Honey is the intranet born from a design agency. So, of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to intranet design.

Here, we’ll outline the 10 specific design decisions we’ve made, how they are a departure from traditional intranets, and why they consistently lead to 90% company engagement every month.

1. The homepage.

Other intranets: Static landing pages.

For over a decade, traditional intranets have been static landing pages that feature universal widgets, links to evergreen resources, and company spotlights. Information is one-directional — a platform for leadership to communicate to the company from the top-down.

This content model requires a full time intranet manager to monitor the site for outdated information, liaise between departments to ensure that new information is included, and publish new content using clunky CMS portals. As we say on our team, “that’s just too much admin.”

As a result, this process becomes incredibly time consuming, subject to bottlenecks, and difficult to maintain. This ultimately leads to stale, outdated content.

When information becomes stale or incorrect, employees stop trusting it and turn elsewhere for answers. Consequently, engagement plummets. This is why the average intranet only sees 13% daily engagement.

🍯 Honey: Dynamic feeds.

At Honey, we believe that people are most likely to spend time in the apps that bring them new value every single log in. This is why we’ve chosen to base our product around personalized, dynamic feeds, in contrast to universal static landing pages.

Our feed-based design makes using Honey as intuitive as the apps we use every day.

✔️ What’s going on in the world? Twitter.

✔️ What’s going on with our friends? Instagram.

✔️ What’s going on at work? Honey.

visual feed

Employees can sort their Feeds to see the latest Posts, explore trending content, or browse updates based on categories like department, project, or location. All employees have access to the Company Feed, where they can see all updates from the company and a Personal Feed, where they can see personalized updates based on role, location, projects, or interests.

2. Search.

The 1% rule states that for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people view that forum but do not post. This means that search is likely more important to most people than creating content.

Other intranets: Limited search.

Ineffective search is the quickest way for employees to lose trust in an intranet. It also happens to be one of the most common reasons we hear from companies about why they switch from their legacy intranets to Honey. Here are some of the most common complaints we’ve gathered about search on other intranets:

  • Page-specific search. Some intranets limit search results to the specific page where the search is conducted. This assumes employees actually know where the searched-for content lives before they conduct the search.

  • Manual tagging. Others require intranet administrators to manually tag each piece of content with search terms so the correct posts surface when employees search.

  • Limited indexing. Even some of the most modern intranets limit search to titles and tags — completely omitting documents, articles, and employee profiles from search results.

  • Confusing results. Search results return in unexpected orders, without options to manually sort in a more meaningful way.

  • No search. It’s hard to believe, but some intranets don’t offer any search capability.

🍯 Honey: Smart and integrated search.

We know that using an intranet shouldn’t be a full-time job, so we’ve designed things to be found as quickly as possible. Every section of Honey is searchable, accessible from Slack, and designed so that users can locate and save frequently searched items.

In-product search.

Honey’s Search bar is available from every page, allowing users to quickly find what they need with a simple keyword search. We index a lot in our search engine. So even if your keyword is buried deep in an embedded document, we’ll make sure it shows up in your search results. This includes:

  • Post titles.

  • Post bodies.

  • Comments.

  • Uploaded files that contain text.

  • URL content — all of the text in an article that has been scraped into Honey.

  • User profiles.

  • Group names.

  • Topic names.

  • Resources.

We also offer smart filters so you can target your searches by attributes like author, date range, or content type.

Finally, you can choose to sort your search results to display by:

  • Relevance.

  • Date.

Relevance takes into account popularity, frequency of keyword usage, and date. If our relevant sort isn’t exactly relevant to what you need, you can always opt to browse through results in a chronological order.

Search

Search from Slack.

All of Honey is searchable from Slack, so you won’t have to navigate to a new window when you need to find something quickly.

Slack

Search & Save.

If you’re searching for the same thing over and over again (like your holiday calendar, 401k information, etc.), you can save your frequently accessed documents, dashboards, videos, or links in your personal Saves Library.

Search & Insights.

Curious which posts people are viewing the most? You can look up that information anytime in your Insights Dashboard, directly on your own. You can also work with your account manager to get a deeper overview of search history so you can ensure that you’re providing information that people actually need.

3. Personalization.

Other intranets: One-size-fits-all.

Most traditional intranets are designed to be experienced in the same way by every person at the company. So, for instance, somebody on the Marketing team based in the London office is going to see the exact same information that somebody from the Finance team in the NYC office would see.

This works fine for major company announcements and information — like quarterly reports, new executive team hires, and employee handbooks. But, does somebody in London really need to see Memorial Day Holiday hours or local company events?

Some modern intranets are able to display different information based on the viewer’s location, which improves the experience. However, location is only one dimension that makes each employee unique — what about departments? project teams? seniority? personal interests? tenure? skills? Does a skilled data scientist really need to be served an Excel 101 tutorial video?

In either case, the information on the screen is limited to what the intranet administrators decided to include for their team. Not only does this limit the personal connection each employee has with the company intranet, it creates a very specific narrative based on the administrator’s perspective that may not resonate with every employee.

If people don’t find the information on their intranet personally valuable to them, they’ll end up logging in once a year to make sure they’re properly signed up for their Benefits plan. This is a huge missed opportunity.

🍯 Honey: Personalization.

Honey exists to serve the individual, not the faceless company. As we build our product, we obsessively think about the human who is experiencing it. Everything starts with the question “how can we make that person’s day at work better?”

That’s why there are two main feeds that sit at the core of Honey — the Company Feed and Personal Feed. When employees log in to Honey, they’ll land on the Personal Feed, so they are immediately greeted with information that is the most relevant to them.

The Personal Feed includes information from their Groups, which reflect things like their department, location, projects, and interests. This means that every person could see something different at the top of their feeds when they login.

For instance, an Engineer may see:

  • Product Release Notes.

  • Quarterly Report.

  • Dungeons & Dragons Meetup.

While an Account Executive may see:

  • New Sales Deck.

  • Quarterly Report.

  • SaaStr Podcast.

Employees can switch to the Company Feed at any time to see what’s going on in different locations, across other departments, and view company-promoted updates.

Paired with user-controlled notifications (explained in detail below), Honey becomes a natural extension of an employee’s personal and daily workflow.

4. Content structure.

Other intranets: Infinitely nested folders.

Most traditional intranets are organized by infinitely nested layers of folders and subfolders. Something we’re all familiar with.

The most common examples of where we’re used to seeing this content structure are file storage platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox. For example:

  • Sales > Collateral > Templates > Sales Decks > 2020.

This structure works well when you’ve personally set up the various layers or are familiar with the structure. However, if you’re a new Account Executive wondering what kind of materials are available on your sales team and you head over to Google Drive, you’ll see something like this:

  • Marketing.

  • Sales.

  • Customer Success.

  • Engineering.

  • HR.

You’ll know enough to click on Sales… and will likely make it to Collateral. But how many clicks will you tolerate before giving up? What happens when you get distracted in another subfolder within Collateral and miss Templates and Sales Decks entirely?

When intranets rely on this structure to organize information, it leads to employees missing critical information and amplifies the communication silo issues happening across the company.

When information is buried, employees stop logging in and, instead, turn to their peers to find what they need — creating more work for everybody and increasing the likelihood of referencing outdated or incorrect material.

🍯 Honey: Simple content hierarchy.

Posts on Honey are organized into a simple two-level hierarchy — Groups and Topics. We understand that nobody wants to click through a dozen nested folders to find what they’re looking for. Our hierarchy requires fewer clicks, which leads to better answers, more productivity, and happier humans.

All posts on Honey are visible from the Group view and can be filtered by Topic or Search for more focused results. By design, Honey won’t let you create an infinite black hole of nested folders. Nesting is for the birds! 🐥

Group Structure

5. Content creation.

Other intranets: Clunky editors built for IT and plain text.

Starting in the ’90s, intranets have been owned and managed by IT, not internal comms. Mainly, somebody who had technical knowledge to set up, maintain, and publish content. Even though that was over 20 years ago, there are still many companies that continue to function that way and products that continue to be built to support that workflow.

From clunky editors that assume a foundational knowledge of Markdown, to a limited publishing suite that restricts content to basic text and links, companies are still struggling to marry outdated technical frameworks with modern content like video and GIFs, that are not compatible.

🍯 Honey: Simple editor built for non-technical contributors and rich content.

Links don’t tell stories. Images, videos, and, well, stories do. That’s why content embeds and beautifully displays on Honey, so people don’t need to guess what’s behind an obscure link or a poorly titled post.

When you drop in a link to your Employee Handbook from Google Drive, your Company All Hands recording on Vimeo, or an article in TechCrunch about your recent fundraise, they’ll embed beautifully for your whole team to view. No need to navigate to another tool or even open another tab.

And, most importantly, anybody can create a Post. Writing an update on Honey is as simple as writing an update on Facebook or Twitter — no training required.

Rich Media

6. Publishing permissions.

Other intranets: Intranet manager publishes everything.

The idea of limiting posting to a single intranet manager, again, dates back to the ’90s, when keeping an intranet up to date was legitimately a technical challenge.

The problem with limiting content creation to an individual or a small group of people is two-fold:

  1. It’s hard to keep the intranet up-to-date.The intranet manager needs to liaise between multiple stakeholders to ensure the right information is getting prioritized, then go through multiple rounds of edits, and finally wait for approvals before content is published.

  2. It breeds a top-down culture of communication. There’s a missed opportunity to hear directly from various departments and levels across the org chart, resulting in a misrepresented view into what’s happening across the company.

🍯 Honey: Permission-based democratic publishing.

On Honey, anybody is able to post an update. Whether that’s an intern sharing a summer project, the CEO sharing the weekly All-Hands video recording, or an Account Executive reporting on quarterly revenue.

With new and personalized information posted from all over the company, on a regular basis, employees have a reason to log in every day. This plays a big part in why companies using Honey see 90%+ monthly engagement.

Beauty Barrage

Admins and moderators are able to limit posting permissions for specific groups. So, for example, only approved members of the HR team would be able to post new company policies.

7. Interactions.

Other intranets: Read.

Traditional intranets are read-only websites. That means, there’s nothing for employees to do except… well, read.

🍯 Honey: Read and respond.

On Honey, people can do much more than just view content. They can comment, like, or save posts. And, as mentioned above, they can even post updates themselves.

Inviting employees to participate in official company communication helps them build a stronger connection with the company, better retain information, and deepen personal relationships with their peers.

8. Notifications.

Other intranets: All or nothing.

Most intranets have two options when it comes to informing people of updates on the intranet:

  1. No notifications.Most intranet platforms don’t have native notifications built into their workflows. These platforms rely on people proactively logging in to find new information on their own. Once they are there, they may see the updated content marked as new… but what’s going to entice your employees there in the first place?

  2. Email blasts. If intranets offer notifications, they’re usually one-size-fits-all — email everybody or email nobody. It works great for company-wide announcements like “We’re opening a new office in London!” but not so great for targeted announcements like “Management training agenda for Sales Managers.”

Too many emails result in nobody reading anything. No emails result in … well, the same thing.

🍯 Honey: Email and slack notifications.

Half your team thinks you send too much internal company email. And they’re probably right. The other half thinks you’re not sending enough updates. They’re probably right, too.

Honey gives you the ability to finally end this argument once and for all.

Email. On Honey, employees have the option to opt-in to the email updates they care about and decide the frequency that makes the most sense for them — instant, daily, weekly, or never.

And, yes, of course, we have some pretty cool settings to utilize email notifications for critical company updates. Learn more about Broadcast Groups, Announcements, and targeted notifications for departments and locations for critical company updates.

Slack. Prefer getting updates in Slack? Us too. In addition to searching Honey from Slack, you can send Honey posts directly to a Slack channel or DM it to a specific person.

Engagement naturally increases and adoption is accelerated when employees can access information where and when it’s most convenient for them.

If people are in a productive workflow — whether they’re in their inbox or in Slack — the last thing they want to do is navigate somewhere else. That’s what informs Honey’s approach to notifications.

9. Integrations.

Other intranets: Require custom development.

Traditional intranets are stand-alone products that don’t integrate with any other tools.

🍯Honey: Native & no-code integrations.

It would be amazing if everything was all in the same place, but that’s a fantasy. For the stuff that is digitally spread across your company, Honey makes it easier to find in one spot, no matter where it may be.

Groups

No-code integrations.

Honey natively connects with powerful tools you already use to operate your business. Our integrations with Okta, G Suite, OneLogin, Azure, and Ping Identity allow for secure single sign-on and automated user provisioning.

Content integrations with Slack, Trello, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, YouTube, Vimeo and more make keeping your team on the same page easier than ever.

Are you using a custom built solution that doesn’t seem to integrate with anything? Simply add it as a Resource to Honey so people can easily access it.

The best news?* Your engineering team won’t have to write a line of code. Everything is turnkey and ready to go.

*If that actually sounded like bad news? We have an open API, so if your engineering team wants to write some code, there are infinite possibilities.

10. Implementation and setup.

Other intranets: FAQs or paid professional services.

If you opt for a DIY landing page, you may get access to a searchable knowledge base or FAQ site. However, you’re unlikely to ever interact with a person or a customer success team.

If you choose a subscription-based modernized version of a traditional intranet, you’ll likely have an option (or oftentimes a requirement) to pay a premium to work with a Client Services team, who will help you get set up and operate your new intranet. These services typically expire (usually within a year) and are limited to a discrete number of hours, meetings, or phone calls.

🍯 Honey: Included lifetime professional services and hands-on account management.

We know that the success of an intranet is only partially based on the technology you choose. There’s a lot more that goes into building an engaged digital community. More than could ever be answered in an FAQ structure.

That’s why at Honey, every company is assigned a dedicated Account Manager for the entirety of your relationship with us. We’re here to help you get your intranet set up, think through your content strategy, train your team, and offer continued product and strategic support.

Malta

And we won’t disappear after you’ve launched. We’re here to help you scale your internal comms strategy from 100 employees to 1,000 (and beyond) and navigate new organizational challenges like international expansion and new org structures. Some examples of things we help with:

  • Content audits.

  • Stakeholder interviews.

  • Design consultation.

  • IT coordination.

  • User engagement surveys.

  • Usage reports.

  • Content best practices.

  • Personalized team trainings.

  • Moderator & admin trainings.

  • Launch materials and messaging.

And, of course, you’ll always have access to our searchable knowledge base at all times.

If you’d like to learn more about using Honey at your company, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us anytime at hello@honey.is.