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Should My Website and Intranet Look Alike?

What works for your patients and community should work for your employees, right? Not necessarily.

But there are some principles of website experience that align great with intranet user experience, too.

Whether prospective patients or current employees, there are some crucial attributes of good digital experiences that you should always plan for in a redesign.

How Intranet & Website UX Align

Intranets, like websites, are a digital experience. Users of both have expectations in their use, and many of those expectations align across audiences, from your colleagues and employees to your prospective patients and hospital visitors.

The best designs guide people to what they need

No matter where content lives on the site, well-thought design should help people complete tasks and find what they need, not hinder or distract them. Whether it’s a website or an intranet, a compelling design that’s intuitive to browse and easy to navigate is essential to a good user experience (UX).

People expect great online experiences

Nielsen Norman Group, an expert of user experience research, has found that web and intranet users tend to expect online experiences to mirror their favorite online brands. While this doesn’t mean your intranet or website should look and operate like Amazon or Facebook, it does mean your intranet and website should have intuitive navigation, accurate search results, and pleasing designs that are easy to use across devices.

Responsive design is still essential

Your patients are coming to your site from laptops, tablets, and phones. Your employees may be accessing the intranet or employee communications portal the same way. Limiting your intranet’s design to an antiquated, outdated format hinders your users’ abilities to find what they need when they need it.

People are task-oriented

Social media is for connecting with friends. Amazon and online shopping are for ordering goods and services. When it comes to healthcare, users on both the web and intranet are largely task based. They seek answers to questions, connection points to appointments and forms, or just checking off a box on their daily to-do list, like paying a bill or registering for an event.

Aside from user experience, some organizations have found it beneficial to build their intranet and website on the same platform, such as VitalSite. This is especially helpful for teams that manage the content for both experiences.

How Should My Intranet Be Different?

Your intranet should keep navigation clear and intuitive, and the design should be accessible across devices and meet the needs of your busy, frontline teams.

A well-designed intranet, even if built from a public website template, is better than no intranet or a poorly built one, but there are a few specific reasons why your intranet should have a different design experience than your public-facing website.

Audiences are different

It’s an obvious statement, but your audiences for the intranet are drastically different from that of your public website. Employees are far more task-oriented than prospective or current patients who are browsing your content to answer questions.

Where your public website is a place to spotlight your brand, your intranet should put tasks and resources front-and-center for quick access to help people get their job done. In fact, modern intranets have seen a pivot from document repositories and digital “filing cabinets” to more app-like experiences, with iconography and visual navigation that’s flexible and accessible across devices.

Not sure what your employees, colleagues, and teams need? Start with an employee survey to learn where your intranet is succeeding, and gaps where it could be improved.

User experiences are different

While it’s true your intranet UX should connect your employees to your overall healthcare brand, it should also serve as a connection to their colleagues and teammates throughout the organization.

Investing time and energy in important elements like employee directories can greatly impact not only employee morale and connection, but collaboration throughout your health system.

Likewise, as your health system grows and adds new clinics or hospitals, a location or facility directory can be an extremely helpful tool to help compartmentalize information for audiences in those walls.

Your intranet is a place for your organization to come together under one umbrella to do the best job they can. Design and user experience should be as unique as your organization and the people in it.

Content types are different

A content type, by Microsoft’s definition, is a reusable collection of data, workflow, behavior, and other settings to be used across a system. While your website has content types for provider and location profiles, events, and your service line pages, your intranet’s will be quite different, for example:

  • Employee profiles – Likely require different fields from your provider profile, and more space for information that is pertinent to outside teams and colleagues
  • Events – Employee events might not be classes like your public site has, but instead continuing education opportunities or on-call schedules for front-line teams to access daily
  • Department pages – Not unlike service pages, department pages should explain what the department and team offers, but the information here will likely be different than a service line page for a prospective patient

Content types need consideration with design, which is why working with a designer and developer to create the most effective content types like these will result in a better and more usable intranet experience.

Aside from digital content types, you likely have far more files and documents to connect to your intranet than your public site, and those need consideration, too.

No matter the file types or content types you have, having an intranet content strategy for implementation, functionality, and ongoing governance is crucial to your lasting success.

Conversions (and metrics) are different

Your public site might be trying to invite and capture prospective patients, urging them to schedule an appointment or visit one of your clinics. But your intranet likely doesn’t have the same level of conversions.

Likewise, the return on investment (ROI) of your website might be scheduled appointments, increased patient volume, or donations to your hospital foundation. But your intranet metrics might not be as clear.

One thing’s for certain with intranets: The biggest conversion is employee engagement, which can be measured in a number of ways, such as:

  • Page visits and access
  • Session duration
  • User path, or what pages or documents they click during visits
  • Document downloads
  • Event or class registration
  • Newsletter, blog, or news release visits

Another great thing about redesigning your intranet is the less-analytical ROI, such as improved employee access, fewer calls to IT for intranet help, higher success of new hire training, and better employee self-service and independence for completing tasks or accessing tools.

Can My Intranet Mimic My Website?

If your employees are heavily engaged with your organization’s website, building an intranet design that mirrors your website may be a great way to connect the dots and get people to navigate the intranet more efficiently.

But there are other ways your intranet can mimic your website, too.

Brand recognition

Your brand – not just your colors and fonts – but your mission, purpose, and rally cry for your teams, should be as immersive on your intranet as your website, if not more so. That said, giving your intranet its own brand is a good way to build morale and familiarity with your intranet as one of the essential tools for every employee toolbox.

If you’re approaching an intranet redesign – especially coming from antiquated environments or document repositories like SharePoint – talk to stakeholders about how you can reimagine the intranet experience by giving it its own brand that links your public-facing organization to the missions you live out internally.

Henry Mayo in Valencia, Calif. did exactly that when they redesigned their intranet, HenryNet. Coming off the heels of a recent website redesign, the Geonetric team wove similar elements, such as a horizontal navigation and promotional spaces, into the intranet design experience.

Engage with content hubs

Your public-facing site might have a content hub or blog where you and your experts share information for healthy living, total wellness, or specialty care on a regular basis. You probably share this across your social media profiles, or even through email newsletters.

In the 2020s, healthcare will see an increased presence and need for content hubs on intranets, too. According to Gallup, nearly 74% of across industries employees don’t feel connected to company news, which negatively impacts employee engagement.

Instead of creating printed newsletters for breakrooms, organizations are moving them online into a digital content hub, making it easy for employees to read stories and explore topics relevant to them and their work. And with digital articles, it’s easy to build an email outreach funnel and monitor the engagement through click-throughs and page visits.

Tested, intuitive navigation & design

At Geonetric, we work hard to understand the needs of your core audiences for your public website, particularly prospective and current patients. With that research in hand, we recommend navigation structures, taxonomy, and page design that helps meet the needs of the modern healthcare consumer.

And when it comes to your intranet, you should put in the same level of research and detail.

In the many employee surveys we’ve conducted and analyzed over the years, some comments align time and time again:

  • The intranet is hard to navigate and find what’s needed
  • Search is confusing and doesn’t deliver accurate results
  • Lack of information or outdated information, like employee profiles and departments, make it hard to connect with people when you need them

By implementing an employee survey – both pre- and post-launch of your redesigned intranet – you’ll keep a better eye on what your employees need to do their job confidently and efficiently.

The design you implement is just as important as the navigation, and in fact, supports the employee experience and engagement. A cluttered, mismanaged “junk drawer” of a homepage is going to be far less engaging and easy to digest than one that’s thoughtful and governed.

Get Your Intranet Up to Speed

Whether discussions for intranet redesigns have started in your organization or not, having points like these in hand is a great place to approach any project. If you’re looking for a partner who can guide you through a healthcare-specific intranet redesign, Geonetric is here to help. Contact us today set up a demo of VitalSite, or learn more about our intranet capabilities.

Brie Lovelace

Web Designer and Developer

Erin Schroeder

Senior Product Strategist

Should My Website and Intranet Look Alike?