Vol. 06: Searching the Intranet and the Employee Directory

3rd Edition

Report PDF cover image

Part of the Intranet Usability Guidelines Series

Improving intranet search is a difficult but important, task. Better intranet search behooves any organization, especially those with intranets with significant amounts of content or poor information architecture. Follow processes and UI patterns specific to effective and easy intranet search, which are sometimes quite different from website search design.

Web search in general has improved tremendously over the past few years, which raises user expectations on intranets. But enterprise search still lags behind, and in our studies we observed that employees are reluctant to search on intranets, even when browsing doesn’t work, due to poor past search experiences.

This 181-page report contains 113 design recommendations based on our usability research. Discussions and 140 screenshot illustrations supplement the findings.


  • Search overview: how people search the internet
    • Reasons people use (and do not use) search
    • How the design impacts search usage
  • Search challenges
    • Difficulty of presenting good search
    • Fixing search
    • Improving results rankings
  • Search front end
    • Patterns for good intranet front-end search
    • Search engine results pages
  • Search backend
    • Ensuring search works well
  • Presenting search on intranets
    • Single (intranet-wide) search
    • Multiple search functions
  • Narrowing search results
    • Search filters
    • Scoped search results
    • Categorized results
    • Faceted search
  • Searching the employee directory
    • Employee search results

Research Method

The information in these reports is based on three separate rounds of user research with company employees as participants. We used two different research methods:

  • One-on-one usability testing
  • Field studies, during which we observed employees as they went about their normal work

Hundreds of people tested 42 intranets. The studies took place in the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, United Arab Emirates, and China (Hong Kong).


Research Reports

Training Courses

  • Information Architecture Day 1: Structure Day 1 and Day 2


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Purchase an individual license if the report or video will only be used by one person.

Customers who choose an individual license are not authorized to share the report or video with anyone else, or post it to any internal or external file server, website, or intranet. Individual License Terms


Purchase a group license if the report or video will be used by multiple people within your organization.

Customers who choose a group license are authorized to post the report or video on internal file servers or intranets and make it available to others within the organization. The group license does not grant permission to make the report/video available to people not employed by your organization, the general public, or to post it to a publicly accessible website or file server. Group License Terms


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