What Content Should You Feature on the SharePoint Homepage?

Posted by Josh Darragh on 10.25.17
Josh Darragh
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If you’ve decided on implementing a SharePoint intranet for your company, you’ll soon face a dizzying array of options for communicating with co-workers. 

Between Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, and the ever-expanding suite of Office 365 products, the possibilities for customization are nearly limitless. This can be a blessing and a curse when it’s time to divvy up the real estate on the most precious of resources -- the SharePoint homepage.

We decided to ask Josh Darragh, one our most talented solution engineers, for some insight into how enterprise companies can plan an optimal user experience. 

With so many apps and integrations available on SharePoint, what advice would you give to company that’s trying to figure out what should go on the homepage?

Well, our motto at Aerie is "start with the user."

You really need to identify all the personas that are coming to the site, and ask yourself, what does each want to see?

There’s a good reason to do that exercise. Some of the content, like corporate news, is stuff everyone should see. But then you need to think about what individual users want, and filter the content by that person’s department or job title. Those people will want to see news, contacts, files and popular documents related to their jobs.

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So, it’s important to make some of the modules global (seen by the entire company), and limit others to smaller groups of users. 

Yes, and keep in mind you can let people choose some of their own preferences. If your company has news about product launches, volunteer events, or updates on new sales – users can choose the types of content they are most interested in. The key is to figure out what each of your personas are, and what they want to see.

Personas are fictitious profiles that represent the interests and behaviors of a real group of people, like IT Eddie or Sales Manager Sarah. Should companies create these personas based on job title or department? 

Companies should really go with what makes the most sense for them.

In most cases, I would recommend defining personas by the person’s position. HR wants to see different stuff than the maintenance techs, and maintenance techs want to see different things than the engineers.

Do people want to see news and updates, or do they want to see tools and documents? That varies by the company culture. Some clients that are very interested in company news and events. Others are more focused on process and document management. It really depends on the situation.

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It can be tricky to keep people engaged in news once your company grows to a certain size.

Sometimes, but the little things help. Our “Shout Out” app is a fun way to keep people engaged, letting them congratulate other people for a job well done. It makes the site more social. Other apps like the Community Exchange – where people post stuff they want to sell – is another popular way to keep things lively. We just put a Community Exchange on another client's intranet, and they’ve talked about how much people will like it. You never know.

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How do you get a sense of this in the exploration process? Do clients know what the employees want?

It takes time to figure out, because the answers depend on who you are working with. Communications and Marketing will tell you that news is very important to the staff, and then we walk down the hall to another department and they have completely different priorities.

We start by finding out what the company’s goals are on a high level. With Subaru of Indiana, communication was a very high priority. As we worked through the process, we added things we thought people might find useful.  

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Does this end up being a work-in-progress? After all, the company's objectives might not always reflect with the employees want in an intranet.

Most of the time, the goals are well aligned with what the users need, but clients often discover new needs as time goes on. Months after Subaru was set up, they wanted a “plant status” module that offered updates about the production schedule. After that, they got interested in featuring safety videos with Microsoft Stream.

The best approach is to reevaluate your intranet every three to six months and figure out what features people are using and what are they not.

Sometimes organizations don’t have a good sense of what they need in the beginning of the process, but that’s okay. That’s where our experience is most useful. We tell them about things we've tried with similar companies that worked out really well. That’s usually enough to get a good conversation started.

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