what makes a good intranet?

(Update:  Skip straight to a great answer to this question by Travis Owens)

I just got an email from a Microsoft customer (who will remain nameless) who is trying to improve their company’s intranet.  They wanted me to give them some insight into Microsoft’s intranet, send some screenshots, etc. what works and what doesn’t etc.  I don’t want to be guilty of leaking information, breaking my contract, and thereby lose my ability to continually supply you with great blog content, so it’s going to take a while until I have formulated all of my opinions from the Microsoft side.  However our intranet I think is heavily influenced by the fact we seemingly have access to as many copies of Sharepoint, Windows, SQL Server, and Visual Studio as we want and we are all to some degree computer geeks, so I’m guessing there would be value in trying to recruit other people to participate in this project.

So the call goes out to anyone working outside of Microsoft that is reading this blog – do you have screenshots, descriptions, or what does and doesn’t work for your company intranet?  Do you centralize it all, or is an organic, emergent type of thing?  What makes it hard? You can either post in comments or privately via the contact form. 

I’m not doing this purely out of altruism, this is actually interesting to me because the more I understand what your needs are, the more equipped I am to fight to fix the type of bugs that you are most likely to care about.  :)


Comments (6)

  1. SuperJason says:

    Keep it simple. If it’s a huge beast, it’s going to crumble from neglect. Try to minimize the number of separate tools you use, and define how the tools should be used.

  2. Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/ produces reports on intranet designs in multiple companies. Unfortunately they are quite expensive to buy, http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet/2003/.

    Often key points are self-service types of "killer" applications, ie. HR / phone directories / news / self-publication by departments etc.

  3. Travis Owens says:

    I’ve decided to take a stab at your "What makes a good intranet" since I’ve been dabbling with Intranets for about 4yrs now. I’ve developed two and attempted to deploy my first one in Sharepoint 2003 (with dismay).

    I’ve written the first draft of my article and hopefully will improve it. The url is


  4. Travis Owens says:

    Since TheSpoke has gutted their site, here’s the new working link to my blog article


  5. matt davis says:

    I have deployed sharepoint portal server as our intranet (as well as WSS for team-site collaboration). I found using rollups (via Corasworks 3rd party addon) to help in showing latest news and events from around the company on the portal home page.

    Looking at 2007, it offers much nicer tools and options in building an even better styled intranet which looks more like a website than the current version.

    I’ve added some useful features so feel free to question me if you like…