GenY to the Xpower

Four differences between the internet and intranet by Valerie Hoven
May 5, 2010, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Intranet, Web 2.0

During an awkward conversation with my coworker, he said that an intranet is the same as the internet. He said they both serve the exact same purpose, same audience and should look the same. I disagree, and here’s why.

Goals: Buy a product vs. Find a resource

The main goal of a website is to get people to do something – buy a product, or in my case, make an appointment. But an intranet’s goal is to allow people to find what they need to do their job. So there’s not much much, if any, promotion.

Design: Promotional vs. Functional

As childish as it may sound, one of the main reasons a website shouldn’t look like an intranet site is because it could confuse users. If the site is too flashy, some users might start to think they are on the WWW and consider the information public. Intranet content isn’t public, and sometimes it’s confidential.

Internal users deserve just as much pizzaz as a flashy internet site, but they also just need to find the tool to do their jobs. It isn’t the design that should drive an intranet, it’s the function. Let the function drive design. Need a form? Click here. Looking for an employee’s email? Click here. Need to register for your 401k? Click here.

Websites on the other hand ask you to do things, not usually the other way around. Ask what your intranet can do for you! But websites usually tell you what to do. That brings us to our next item: Content.

Content: Push vs. Social

Intranets are (or should be) social. Other than social networking sites, most websites just push content. Intranets should be social and be two-way communications. It should be popular among company employees as @tobyward says, you’re not a 2.0 intranet just by having 2.0 tools).

Audience: External vs. Internal

The obvious is that the audiences are totally different. Internal users are looking for something, and you need to make sure it’s just a click away for them.

External users aren’t always searching for something specific, but something general (ie How to diagnose kidney disease versus how is surgery like?). You can guide them to what you want. If they’re looking for information on kidney transplant, for example, you should have pages of available and valuable content for them, as well as clear call to actions. Read about the surgery – make an appointment. Watch a patient tell her story – make an appointment. Listen to a doctor explain the outcomes – make an appointment. You want to guide external users to what you want them to do. The internal users already know what they want, so you need to help them get there. And when internal users find it? They’re done! The intranet did its job.

So, who’s right? Am I on an island here? I use Sharepoint for my company’s intranet, and a coworker showed me cool websites using Sharepoint. Yes, I get that Sharepoint can look way cooler than the way my intranet looks, but like I explained above, I don’t want it to look like a website. Am I wrong?


6 Comments so far
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Great points Valerie. I definitely think that your intranet and public website should server different functions and also different audiences. In my mind the goals of an intranet are to provide information to employees to help them in their day to day tasks and to facilitate internal communication. These goals should always be kept in mind when it comes to building and designing your intranet so, no your intranet site should not look like your public website.

Comment by Rachel Lai

Thanks Rachel! I’m glad someone thinks I got it right… 😉

Comment by Valerie Hoven

Good article Rachel. I agree with all your points above and I can add something to the list of differences from an IT point. To build an internet website is a piece of cake compared to build an intranet. Intranets are much complexer, usually they have personalized content (language, location or unit news at the home page), for collaboration users need to be known on the intranet. An intranet has more community features than an internet.
Also the (content) management part is usually more complex to organize in an intranet than the internet (The internet is often only run by marketing, but there are much more stakeholders for the intranet).

Comment by Bas Zurburg

Great additions, Bas! Thank you.

Comment by Valerie Hoven

Four differences between the internet and intranet – GenY to the Xpower…

This article has been submitted, Thank You – Trackback from IntranetLounge…

Trackback by IntranetLounge

How exciting, thanks! This is my first “pingback.”

Comment by Valerie Hoven

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