5 Features for your SharePoint 2013 Intranet Homepage


You may also be interested in: Simple SharePoint Migration Tool – Content Matrix by Metalogix


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Intro

A well designed homepage can be the make or break of an intranet. It forms first impressions of the system and acts as a starting point for a range of tasks and journeys.

Despite this importance, many organisations fail to get this keystone of their intranet right. All too often the homepage becomes a static page, crowded with generic content produced by a handful of designated authors.

Inevitably this has a knock-on impact on the rest of the intranet. Users avoid the homepage (in some cases, the intranet all together) and bookmark various other sites and pages instead.

So what can organisations do to create a relevant and engaging intranet homepage? Crucially, there must be a recognition that users’ expectations of the intranet have changed. Rather than just formal top-down communication, employees expect the homepage (and the intranet in general) to be a hub for bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication.

That communication is no longer limited to just change management initiatives or the CEO’s blog either. Employees want to see information relevant to their day-to-day activity, such as personal or organisational performance data.

The functionality in SharePoint 2013 has reflected these changes in user expectations. In this blog, we will explore 5 trending intranet homepage features and explore what SharePoint 2013 functionality is available to deliver these.

1. Creating an intranet newsfeed with SharePoint 2013

2. Surfacing intranet blogs with SharePoint 2013

3. Creating an intranet survey with SharePoint 2013

4. Surfacing intranet KPIs with SharePoint 2013

5. Creating an intranet discussion list with SharePoint 2013

1. Creating an intranet newsfeed with SharePoint 2013

An intranet newsfeed gives users the ability to rapidly and publicly communicate with one another, enabling them to ask questions, post updates, share ideas and more.

For management, it offers an opportunity to engage with employees openly, directly and personally.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Newsfeed App

The SharePoint newsfeed provides a microblogging experience familiar from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can post comments (including rich media), direct it at specific users with @targetting and tag it with a specific topic using #tags. Comments (as well as users and #tags) can be followed and liked.

The author’s profile picture, as well as presence (e.g. online, offline, in a meeting), is displayed on an interactive tile to the left of the comment itself. Newsfeeds can be added to multiple sites on the SharePoint intranet and all conversations are aggregated (and can be filtered) in the users’ MySite Newsfeeds.

Out-the-box example

In this example a member of the Marketing department has used the SharePoint homepage newsfeed to gather feedback on a recent company video. The video itself has been embedded inline from a YouTube link and another user has liked the original post and replied.

2013-09-15-5Features-01.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve simply styled the SharePoint homepage newsfeed app to have a custom header reflecting the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-02.jpg

2. Surfacing intranet blogs with SharePoint 2013

Intranet blogs open discussions around relevant topics in the way that news articles cannot. They provide authors with the ability to not only communicate a message, but also to spark conversation and collect feedback. For readers, they offer the opportunity to have their opinions be heard and addressed.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Blog Site and Content Search Web Part

The SharePoint blog site offers authors the authoring and publishing tools they would expect from a consumer Content Management system like WordPress – including rich text editing, the ability to embed video from sources like YouTube and the ability to publish content directly from Microsoft Word. Readers can “Like” or Rate (1-5 stars) blog posts, leave comments and follow / share via RSS or email.

The SharePoint Content Search Web Part can aggregate all blogs from multiple site collections and surface links to them (in chronological order) via a web part on the SharePoint intranet homepage.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the SharePoint Content Search Web Part to display all blog posts from all SharePoint site collections. This means we are seeing an aggregated view of personal blogs (from MySites), departmental blogs (from team sites) and organisation-wide blogs.

2013-09-15-5Features-03.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve displayed SharePoint blogs as part of a tabbed web part that also aggregates formal company announcements as well as company events in a calendar format. The web part has also been styled to include a profile of the blog author as well as a synopsis and to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-04.jpg

3. Creating an intranet survey with SharePoint 2013

Intranet surveys enable creators to rapidly crowd source valuable information from a large pool of employees. As participants in the survey, employees are likely to become more engaged as a result of having a convenient channel for bottom-up feedback. Due to the potential passing traffic, the intranet homepage makes the ideal location for a SharePoint survey.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Survey App and Promoted Links App

The SharePoint survey app provides a template to quickly and easily construct surveys with various question types (multiple choice, rating scales, text fields). Once the surveys are completed it also provides graphical representations of the results (which can also be exported to Excel for further analysis).

The SharePoint promoted links app part creates metro-style tiles with a hover-over state to provide additional text information. The benefit of the tiles is that they are more visually engaging than a standard list and follow the theme of the SharePoint site.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the SharePoint promoted links app part to display 2 Calls to Action – “Take the survey” and “View the results”. When a user clicks on the “Take the survey” link, the SharePoint survey app is opened in a modal on the same page.

2013-09-15-5Features-05.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve embedded the SharePoint survey question directly onto the SharePoint intranet homepage to make it even more convenient for users, increasing the number of responses. When the response is submitted the web part dynamically changes to display a graphical view of the results. The web part has also been styled to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-06.png

4. Surfacing intranet KPIs with SharePoint 2013

By having convenient and regular access to KPIs, employees are able to align their activities more closely with the changing demands of the business. Increasing visibility of organisational level performance metrics also unites employees in a wider cause.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Excel Web Access Web Part

The Excel Web Access Web Part enables us to display data from an Excel spreadsheet directly on a SharePoint page. The author has granular control over what data from the spreadsheet is displayed and what data can be accessed (e.g. displayed only a single chart, restrict the ability to open or download the spreadsheet).

Once surfaced on the SharePoint page, the Excel data can also be made interactive for users. Filters and refiners for Pivot Charts and Tables as well as animated charts (using PowerView) can be surfaced so that users are able to explore data in more detail.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the Excel Web Access Web Part to surface FY2013 sales figures against targets. Users can filter the chart to see data by a specific quarter or month.

2013-09-15-5Features-07.png

Custom example

In these examples we’ve displayed a variety of KPIs on the SharePoint intranet homepage combining a text description with a RAG status, indicating immediately to the user which areas of the business relevant to them are performing or under performing. In addition the web parts have been styled to suit the organisations’ brands and SharePoint intranet themes.

2013-09-15-5Features-08.png

5. Creating an intranet discussion list with SharePoint 2013

Intranet discussion lists, as the name suggests, allow users to discuss particular topics with their peers and subject matter experts. An intranet discussion list could be used for a wide-range of purposes, from a Questions and Answers area to a forum for Product Ideas. The benefit of discussion lists is that employees can tap into a wide organisational network of knowledge and resources.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Community Site Features and Discussion List App

The SharePoint Community Site Features allow us to create forum-style collaboration areas. Users can ask questions or start discussions using a discussion list. The content can be ordered by category. Contributors are rewarded with scores for their replies (and designated “Best Answers”) and discussion lists can be moderated by appointed users if required.

Out-the-box example

In this example we have added a noticeboard to the homepage for users to post work-related “Buy and Sell” discussions / adverts. This sort of fast-changing and unpredictable content often helps drive traffic to the homepage.

2013-09-15-5Features-09.png

Custom example

In this example we have embedded the “Ask a Question” field directly into the page for convenience. Additionally, the responses to any questions or discussions added are displayed in-line on the same page, so users do not need to navigate to a new page to view them. The web part has also been styled to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-10.jpg

Conclusion

SharePoint 2013 comes equipped with all the functionality required to create a dynamic and engaging intranet homepage for users. For those that recognize the changing requirements of intranets and harness this new functionality, the rewards can be great. A good intranet homepage sets precedent for a wider intranet experience and can contribute to employee engagement and productivity.

Whilst SharePoint’s out-the-box functionality has vastly improved since 2010, the requirement for customisation remains in order to provide a fully branded and cutting-edge user experience.