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When you can’t implement a global intranet menu

An empty cafe menu.

When you can’t implement a global intranet menu

Susan Hanley presented some excellent good-practice tips about SharePoint hub sites at IntraTeam Event Copenhagen (March 2020) and she was kind enough to talk with me about our shared intranet interests.

Being a Microsoft MVP (most valued professional) and independent consultant, working deep within the digital workplace, Susan knows a thing or two about SharePoint’s strengths and its limits.

We’re all coming to terms with hub sites, the new ‘home’ site, and mega-menus. Hub sites link up several communication sites together, to offer shared navigation and news. But many organisations use dozens of hub sites, or independently designed communication sites (for a specific purpose perhaps) and so they find that there’s no such thing as global intranet menus. Every hub site has its own menu; hub sites can’t automatically share a set menu across multiple hub sites.

This is where intranet in-a-box products come in. By installing an intranet product atop your existing SharePoint environment, you get additional features, themes, and functionalities, including a global menu.

But aside from Microsoft saying a global menu for SharePoint of some kind is ‘top of mind’, Susan made a very good point about the user journey.

When the user journey ends, people rarely head to the navigation menu

Navigation is a major feature of your intranet. Not just the main menu, but all the icons and ‘quick links’ on your home page.

Global menus help people see by eye what’s available and compare options. If someone is looking for information around the corporate strategy project (for example), they might compare the ‘Projects’ menu offerings with the ‘About us’ menu, which might offer ‘Corporate strategy’ and initially choose the one they think is more likely to be relevant.

As a person clicks through the links to get where they think they need to go, or when following a process, they’ve got an objective in mind. They’re not grazing; they’re doing this for a reason. Even if exploring, it’s with intent.

When the objective has been met, the person is unlikely to need a lot of help to ‘get out’. They’ll likely close the tab, or click the logo to go ‘home’, or just ditch the browser and focus on another app. They don’t often need (or miss) the global intranet menu when they’re deep into a specific area of the intranet. Once they’ve done the work, they’re done.

The best thing you can do, if you cannot implement a global menu with custom code or an add-on, is to ensure the logo you may naturally have at the top-left always links to the intranet home page (which is not an easy feat to achieve). When people get lost, they like starting again from the beginning. When people complete a task, they may want to go home, or they may not need anything further from the intranet.

I will definitely use Susan’s insight when assuring clients that a missing global menu isn’t the worst thing in the world. But I still want a global menu in SharePoint, and I think everyone does!

Wedge Black

I support ClearBox in everything we do online, and I assist clients that are considering redeveloping or replacing their intranet platform. I worked in global and regional organisations as the intranet manager as part of the comms team, before becoming an intranet consultant. I'm the founder of the Intranet Now annual conference. I’ve tweeted about intranets and comms for nearly fifteen years now.

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