It's great to see what others in the community are doing with their SharePoint implementations and to see what's working vs what's not, and in general to get ideas. Although not SharePoint specific, the yearly Nielsen Norman Group, 10 Best Intranets report is a great way to see what is trending, not only specific to functionality of intranets, but also what it takes to build a successful intranet.
As always there were some interesting trends that presented themselves in this year's report. I wanted to start with the trending features of the 10 Best Intranets. These were just some of the features that appeared within these top intranets and seem to be gaining popularity amongst the intranet/site implementers of the world.
Scoped Search : We sometimes treat search as the answer to all questions. However I've come across many cases where search was functioning just fine but users actively complained of still not being able to find useful content. This usually is due to the fact that the search results that are returned are too broad, and the relevant content is diluted amongst the irrelevant. This explains this trend which is to focus more on scoped searches that are presented in a usable manner. This means rather than searching your whole intranet for a term, the user actively selects what part of the site they want to search, resulting in less irrelevant and more relevant content.
Carousels : Anyone that has asked the broad question of "what should appear on your home page?" should know of the political battles that sometimes ensue. The home page is your prime real estate, the waterfront view of your intranet/site. Carousels were an overwhelming trend amongst the 10 Best Intranets, with 8 out of 10 of them using this functionality. This is a great method of displaying more content on the page but at the same time presenting it in a digestible manner with categories and limited scrolling (hopefully).
Megamenus : This has been a steady growing trend in the last few years, but if not done correctly can contribute more to the problem than the solution. Many of this year's sites utilized megamenus with usability testing to ensure that end users were not further confused or bombarded with choices.
Persistent Right Content Column : By ensuring the right most column is always present on inner pages with relevant content such as related links and contact information, you provide an enhanced navigation experience. The key is to ensure that this content is presented in a simple manner, with important and relevant information.
Faster Development Time : The average number of years it took to develop this year's intranets dropped nearly in half from last year to 1.4 years. With an increase of Agile development process use, teams developed their sites faster and engaged their end users earlier.
Growing Team Sizes : Although down from last year, the overall trend is still growing with the average team size at 16 members. More and more people finding that in order to implement a successful intranet/site, a lot of different roles must be filled. From the Business Analysts leading the planning, Developers and Designers creating the site, to the Trainers introducing the site to the end users, the team that delivers a successful intranet/site is growing.
Responsive Design : Unlike last year, almost all of the winners accommodated mobile support in one fashion or another. Responsive design was a focus for 3 out of the 10 winners, who chose to create a single version of the site that would adapt to all platforms.
Although every implementation is different, the desire is the same. We all want to build intranets that are highly adopted and well received. These trending features and statistics as identified in the 2014 Intranet Design Annual, provides some great insight into what successful teams are doing. The full report can be found here.