I keep hearing and reading people who speak of the “digital workplace” as the next evolution of the intranet, as intranet 2.0. But as long as we’ve had digital tools, we’ve had a digital workplace. It’s never been bigger or more complex today, but the digital workplace is nothing more than the sum total of all your digital tools (applications, sites, etc.) — any digital tool your employees use to do work.
The digital workplace is more complex than just a website or an intranet and cannot be designed as easily as throwing together new graphics. It is a sum of all digital tools and applications that have been used for decades. In great digital workplaces, the intranet frequently serves as a hub that connects all digital tools and applications for employees, helping them access information and get work done quickly. When designing the digital workplace, designers must focus on facilitating quick access to information and tools that help employees perform their jobs, as opposed to creating glitzy designs that prioritize sales and marketing.
To achieve a successful design, designers must understand the purpose and target audience, focusing on facilitating the usability of the site to aid employees, without the need to sell the company’s products or services to them. This requires designers to focus on personalization, usability, and business process rather than visual designs. Design standards and guidelines, as well as style guides, should be consolidated and apply to all digital entities. The design process should be grounded in assessing the current digital environment, senior management concerns, business requirements, and user needs, which must be taken into account during planning. Finally, the digital workplace must render correctly on mobile devices, with frequently used applications placed front and center on the intranet homepage or designated launchpad.
So digital workplace design is more about creating a style guide, a set of standards and guidelines, for applying user experience design to all those digital workplace tools, beginning with the intranet.