What is an Intranet: An Intranet is a secured, or private computer network that uses Internet technologies to share information from organisations and companies. The information contained within an Intranet is usually there for the express purpose for staff of the organisation. Intranets can also be used for internal communication and collaboration.

An intranet is built from the same concepts and technologies used for the Internet. Any of the well known Internet protocols may be found in an intranet, such as HTTP (web services), SMTP (e-mail), and FTP (file transfer). Internet technologies are often deployed to provide modern interfaces to legacy information systems hosting corporate data.
Intranets differ from extranets in that Intranets are generally restricted to employees of the organisation while extranets can be accessed by customers, suppliers, or other approved parties.

Increasingly, Intranets are being used to deliver tools and applications, such as collaboration or sophisticated corporate directories, sales and Customer relationship management tools, project management and other core business tools.

Planning and creating an Intranet
If you are considering creating a new Intranet, or reviving an existing one, here is a suggested list of considerations for successful planning:

The purpose and goal(s) of the Intranet

– The people, teams, or departments that will be responsible for design, development, implementation and management of the Intranet

– Wireframes, design, information architecture, layouts, and key features

– Delivery timeframes

– Security needs of the intranet

– The level of interactivity, such as blogs, wikis, forms etc

The items above are in addition to the hardware and software considerations required, such as platform, content management system, and quality assurance.

The implementation of an Intranet includes steps such as:

– Budget allocation

– Business requirements analysis

– User needs analysis

– Scope definition

– Setting up web server(s)

– Creation of document framework for the content to be hosted

– Quality assurance, and testing of the Intranet

The following are considerations for managing the Intranet moving forward:

– Feed the Intranet with new and relevant content.

– Keep your Intranet current. Keep the information up to date.

– Allow users of the Intranet to create content. Intranets are for employees, so allow them to use it and interact with it.

– Requested feedback on your Intranet, and take it into consideration and make changes where relevant.

The Difference Between Intranet and Web Design

An Intranet, and public website are two very different tools, and as such should in most cases carry different designs. A lot of companies are tempted to save money by applying a single design to their Intranet and website, however this can be a recipe for disaster, as the two are very different beasts:

– The users differ. Intranet users will already know much about the company, its structure, relevant products, terms, and circumstances. Users on your public website know much less about your company.

– The tasks differ. Intranets are typically used for everyday work from within the company using the Intranet. The public website will be primarily used to find out information about the business, its products and services.

– The type of information differs. Intranets contain draft reports, project progress reports, human resource information, and other confidential information whereas the public website will be focused on marketing information.

– The amount of information differs. Generally speaking, Intranets contain much much more information than a public website.

Use different designs to re-enforce the two different platforms. Use different designs to remind users when they are on the Intranet, that the information they are seeing is private and confidential.

An Intranet design should be much more task-oriented and less promotional than that of a web design approach for a public website. Make your Intranet easy to navigate, they typically contain significant amounts of information so remember to make it easy on the users to find the specific document of piece of information they are looking for.

Effectively Managing an Intranet

– Tightly Managed: only approved documents and information gets posted, and the site has a single, well-structured information architecture and navigation system under the control of a single administrator.

– Chaos: multiple administrators, open access, little co-ordination. Inconsistent design, and layout, no information architecture.

– Managed diversity: multiple administrators, but Intranet pages are designed according to a single set of templates and interface standards; the entire intranet follows a well-planned (and usability-tested) information infrastructure.

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