Intranet Portals: UX Design Experience from Real-Life Projects

5th Edition

A good intranet portal provides easy access to all enterprise information, resources and tools. Intranet portals can also effectively consolidate applications, connect information, drive governance, change communication, and reduce fragmentation.

Comprehensive case studies show how the portal team can deliver what the organization and its users (your employees) need to be successful. Some of the most-praised features of intranet portals turn out not to be needed in most companies. For example, role-based personalization usually works better than individual personalization. And some compelling advice isn’t about features at all, rather it’s about process and governance.

This653-pagereport presents174 best practicesbased on83 case studies. Discussions and397 screenshot illustrationssupplement our findings.

This report focuses on the design, user interface, use, usability, and adoption of an enterprise portal — that is, the user experience of intranets that look, feel and act like portals.


  • Portal characteristics
  • Past and future portals
  • Defining the portal
  • Development best practices
  • Governance models
  • Department ownership and staffing
  • Getting employees to use and like the portal
  • Governance challenges
  • Managing content
  • The importance of the content management system (CMS)
  • Centralized and decentralized ownership and authorship
  • Templates, standards, and guidelines
  • Communication and support
  • User research, prototyping, card sorting, and focus groups
  • The common portal homepage (or no homepage)
  • Initial portal implementation strategy
  • Sub-sites
  • Department pages
  • People pages
  • Website design and structure
  • Information architecture
  • Moving from intranet IA to portal IA takes time
  • Personalization and customization
  • Application showcase
  • Portal platforms
  • Enterprise mobile
  • Collaboration and social tools
  • Security and single sign-on
  • Search and filters
  • Improving search
  • Return on investment
  • Methods and technologies used to realize the vision within an organization's framework

Vendor-Independent Analysis

Intranet portals are being pushed heavily by technology vendors, but the experience reported by the many portal managers we contacted is that technology only accounted for about a third of the problems they struggled with while implementing their portals. The rest were organizational issues and company politics.

This report presents a unique perspective on intranet portals: not that of a vendor trying to push a specific solution, but instead the user-experience point of view. What do portals mean to your employees and how can the portal team deliver what the organization needs? To find out, we investigated 83realportal projects, getting feedback from people who have managed the creation and updating of enterprise portals.Heretheytell their stories about what works well.

Some of the most-touted features of intranet portals turn out not to be needed in most companies: for example, role-based personalization usually works better than individual personalization. Similarly, one of the world's five-largest law firms discovered that its clients needed much simpler dealrooms than those promoted by most vendors of extranet portals.

We are vendor neutral. Some other companies that charge much higher prices for their reports receive large amounts of money from vendors. In contrast, we don't work with any portal vendors, nor do we edit out any of the harsh comments about them. We also don't have anything against the vendors, nor are we trying to sour anyone’s perception of them just for the sake of doing so.