Intranet Navigation

Nav-i-ga-tion: the process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route.

Intranet Navigation comes in a number of forms – it is not just the menu bar across or down the page – there are many other functions within your intranet that aid navigation including Search, Breadcrumb Bars, Quick Links, Banner Ads and Navigation Bars.

As  intranet consultants, we have come across many sites that are cluttered with an abundance of menu options and links to different pieces of content. The homepage becomes very text-heavy and as a user, it takes a huge amount of time to find the information you need and becomes a very frustrating exercise! Good navigation is essential to the success of an intranet.

Consider the following when creating your intranet navigation.

Global menu navigation

This is generally a navigation or menu bar made up of headings for commonly accessed information. Consider the name of your menu items carefully. Will a user know what is behind a menu item before they click on it? Will they click on it? Or is it too ambiguous? A common example we’ve seen is “General Information” – this could mean anything! Your menu items should be recognizable to your staff and should deliver on what they promise in the way of content. See some examples below:

Home Home Home
Product Product Info Quality Management
Marketing Service Departments
Operations Our Teams My Job & Career
Finance Apps Policies & Procedures
Board Me@Work Forms
Office Chill Zone

Take into account the number of menu items in your navigation bar. Too many items will confuse your users. Generally no more than 8 top level menu items are recommended.

The use of subscript text in horizontal navigation bars is also effective in helping your users navigate. The main items are generally single words, with a short description below to describe each item:


History, Mission & Values


Examples of our work

This is a great way of keeping your horizontal navigation bar simple and uncluttered, but also gives the user some text to assist with navigation.

Breadcrumb bars

Working with various intranet clients, we’ve found that a lot of companies are simplifying their intranet navigation to be in line with their corporate website. On the intranet, links back to the Home page are no longer solely maintained by the navigation bar, rather they can be accessed via the ‘Home’ link in the breadcrumb bar or by clicking on the company logo as you would on a website.

 Breadcrumb Bars 

Role-based navigation

Role-based navigation is becoming more common with companies looking to serve up information for their employees as efficiently as possible. In addition to a global navigation bar, role-based navigation items are provided to allow staff to access information and content specific to them and their role. Our client Jetstar requires their frontline staff to be able to access information quickly and easily:

‘Pilots are required to consume a lot of important safety information and it changes all the time. The role-based navigation and landing pages make it fast and easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for.’ Digital Communications Advisor

Links to frequently used pages

Users are often looking for the ‘quickest route’ to content. This is often characterized by how many ‘clicks’ away the content is. For example, would a user who wants to access the Payroll system prefer to:

a)      click on Human Resources, then select Payroll, then select Payroll system; or

b)      click the Payroll system link as displayed in a list of links to external applications on the Home page of the intranet

Many of our clients find that collating a list of frequently used Quick Links can assist users to navigate to internal and external links quickly and easily – with most content only one click away.

Images as a form of navigation

In the same way as Quick Links, we recommend that clients consider using images or banner ads to point users to important content or a commonly completed task, i.e. a picture of a beach that links to an online Annual Leave application form. This is a great way to add illustrations and images to your site as well as getting users quickly to the content they want and ensures that your pages do not become too text-heavy and difficult to read or navigate.

 Images as navigation


A powerful and comprehensive search engine is a very useful navigation tool. We have found that there are still a lot of users who will always rely on ‘searching’ for content – no matter how simple your navigation may be. The search engine should be able to search content within your intranet including associated applications and nominated sources, as well as allow for customized search and refining of content. It should aim to provide contextual results which highlight the search term and display other relevant or related content. This serves as the icing on the cake for your users’ navigation needs.



Test the usability of your intranet navigation with some simple usability testing. How easy is it for users to find the information they need? Write out your menu items onto cards and lay them out in the order they will appear on the intranet. Ask the user to tell you where they would go to perform a simple task; for example, “Where would you go to download the latest price list?”. Pay close attention to the steps the user takes to find this information, as well as how long it takes them to complete the task. Test the proposed navigation on a number of users from different departments within your company. You can then make changes to your navigation based on your findings.

An intranet is all about the users. In order to get users to trust and rely on the intranet, they need great navigation to guide them through the site and be able to find the information that they need easily and quickly.



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