Intranet customisation, how can it be achieved?

In the world of intranets there are two types of personalisation – those that are planning to do it and those that aren’t doing it!

We have reviewed a lot and run a great number of planning sessions for intranets and digital workplaces. During these processes, there are often high aspirations for end-user personalisation is some form or another. Personalisation is major focus for Intranet owners and designers in 2018 and there has been much discussion about the best ways to achieve personalisation and its benefits. There has been lots of recent research on personalisation in the commercial and B2B sectors, which shows that personalisation can make a real difference. A study by Gartner found that in 2018 B2B companies that had personalised sites were doing 15% better than those who hadn’t implemented personalisation.

Creating the right level of personalisation can be the difference in making a great intranet and is key to providing employees with relevant and engaging content. Creating a personalised home-page and news feed can be a significant factor in ensuring high levels of intranet adoption. So why is it that personalisation targets often fall short of expectations or are cut completely from scope by the time a project is underway?

The main problem is that personalisation tends to have a confused definition and can mean different things to different people. A simple enough concept of “make it relevant for people using it” gets translated into a number of technical implementations that don’t always fully achieve this simple goal. There are 2 main approaches to personalisation listed below:

  • Targeted Content- Targeted content is pushed to users based on their location, department, or team.
  • Customisation – The end user is required to select which data streams they want to see, usually achieved through drag and drop capability.

Here is our take on these methods and how they compare to each other.

Targeted Content

Targeting content is a great way of delivering contextualised content to individuals or groups without requiring substantial development costs but it is not without challenges. Analysis conducted by Hubspot shows that targeting does work, they found that calls-to-action that were targeted to an individual were 42% more likely to actioned than generic calls-to-action. Content can be targeted based on:

  • Profile data – Creating a model of known attributes about an individual and matching these with meta-data (or tags) against content.
  • Zones – Matching meta-data in the content to specific zones, pages or sites on the intranet.

Profile data

Of the two options, matching content to specific profile data provides a much richer experience for the end user, as it targets information matched to unique traits of each user. This method requires the user to perform less cognitive activities (i.e. ignoring irrelevant content) but also means that assumptions will need to be made about what content applies to each of these attributes.


The benefit of targeting information based on zones means that you are not required to spend copious amounts of time grooming or preparing user attributes. Often the personal data held by companies, especially larger and more complex organisations, is out of date or simply missing. This can mean that getting and cleansing this data can be a significant challenge. If this sounds like your organization, we’d recommend checking out our partner The downside is that users may end up looking sifting through content that is not relevant to them which can have a negative effect on their overall intranet experience.

The challenge in either scenario is less about technology and more about data and content.  Both user data and the content for targeting become the critical elements in the piece and in most scenarios these elements are owned by entirely different stakeholders, the former by IT and the latter by communications. Not aligning these two pieces ultimately results in an inferior end-user experience. There is also the ongoing issue of categorising the content produced and assigning it to certain attributes or zones, someone must be responsible for making these decisions.

Intranet Customisation

Providing users with some form of customisation option is a common and noble aspiration; allowing people to have a say in what information they deem to be useful and relevant. Customisation is typically achieved by allowing users to drag-and-drop widgets on to and around the page.

Although customisation gives the user complete control over what content they see and the potential to create a truly unique intranet portal. With this extra functionality for the user comes some challenges for those running the intranet and creating the widgets.

The main challenge is figuring out the parameters governing the rules of end-user customisation, and this tends to be one why this requirement is bounced from scope, for example here are some questions to consider:

  • Are users able to customise, remove, amend all widgets from the landing page – i.e. Can you create a completely blank page?
  • What happens when new widgets are added or widgets are updated?  Should these be added to all landing pages or should it be up to the user to add them?
  • Should widgets conveying high value business information be forced or locked?  Who governs these decisions? Will the same principles apply in 3, 12 or 18 months time?
  • If only lower value widgets are covered by end-user customisation should they be on the landing page at all?
  • What percentage of users will take advantage of this functionality on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

Customisation and widget functionality can be technically complex and result in an increase in time spent by support teams resolving issues when things go wrong. In all companies there will be users with different abilities when it comes to technology and for some customisation may be a step too far.


Where technology and budget are removed the main point across both models is, who is making the decision about what users should see on the intranet?  The optimal solution for your organisation is likely to be a mix of giving users some control and a top-down push.

The two elements that need most focus in all personalisation scenarios are:

  • What you know about your employees and how reliable is that information?
  • Do you have someone to provide content which will support the personalisation approach you choose to take now and in the future?

Whilst the technology you choose can go some way to support your personalisation goals, it ultimately will be business process, resource and capability that will answer those questions.

Personalisation is for life, not just for launch.[vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”How to build an Intranet Business Case” style=”3d”]Are you ready to update your intranet? At the start of any project we advise compiling a business case. A business case needs to be well researched, impartial and balanced, meaning the company as a whole can make a fair and informed decision about whether a new initiative is right for your organisation.

BUILD YOUR BUSINESS CASE hbspt.cta.load(4107501, ‘5f556bf3-0d27-4406-a325-308ab6eee163’, {}); [/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]