Design principles

Government Digital Service (GDS)

GDS advocate design principles and ways of working which SMLWRLD apply to their intranet projects and processes.

For more information see: and


1. Start with user needs

We conduct research to find out how your staff work and their key painpoints. Using the research data we work with you to determine how this translates to their digital needs.  

Without user research we run the risk of creating an intranet which meets the needs of the intranet project team, or senior management stakeholders, rather than your core workforce.

If you have limited budget we can advise you on how to undertake the user research yourselves.

Some guides and generic templates available on this site:

2. Do less

We integrate with your existing systems where possible.

  • If you have an Active Directory we can use that for user management and authentication
  • If you have a website with chunkable data we can integrate with your API to display it within the intranet

3. Design with data

We use both internal tracking and (where agreed) Google Analytics to track users' behaviour, This allows us to make concrete, verified assessments and iterate accordingly.

See: Analytics, feedback and improvements

4. Do the hard work to make it simple

Creating content for an intranet is easy. Creating good content is hard work.  We spend a lot of time training content administrators on how to create useful, searchable and accessible content.

Example - digitising paper forms

The process of digitising various paper forms is not simply transferring text and input fields online. In many cases paper forms were created years prior, and no longer reflect the real world processes. They may also have been created without end users in mind, and often result in confusion for the users, and poor data for the administrators.

We can work with you to document, assess and redessign:

  • the existing service which this form is a part of
  • existing parts of the process which could be reworked to improve the journey for the user
  • how the existing form aligns (or doesn't align!) with your current and/or ideal workflow/process
  • which free-text fields can be translated into selectable lists to enforce cleaner data
  • if the form is logical and easy to follow. Are related fields grouped? Are mandatory questions obvious?

After the review is complete, the intranet team will then assist  you to create an online version of your form using the in-built Forms Tool.

5. Iterate. Then iterate again

We always advocate starting small, then testing, throwing out what doesn't work and improving what does.

Our software most likely has everything you need to launch your intranet, without additional development. However, in instances where your user research determines customised must-have functionality is required, we aim to provide an MVP - a minimum viable product. In the first instance we build basic functionality by tweaking the existing software settings and avoiding development altogether. If some development is required, we keep this to a minimum.

That way we avoid uncessary costs and delays, and the functionality can be tested and assessed in a real user environment, before major costs are incurred.

And of course your intranet is a living system. We can provide six-monthly reviews of your intranet and advise minor/incremental  improvements to keep your users happy and engaged.

See: Analytics, feedback and improvements

6. This is for everyone

We follow WACG Guidelines to ensure your intranet is open to everyone.

7. Understand context

As part of our user research we do in-context interviews with a range of staff. It's important we know your users' environments and the variety of challenges they may face when accessing and using the site.

8. Build digital services, not websites

Your staff know their jobs, and we know intranets. 

As such, we don't ask users to tell us what they want from an intranet. In user research, "What do you want the new intranet to do?" can be a pointless question. Instead we ask "What do you want to be able to do?" and "What issues are stopping you from doing your job well?"

Instead we ask about their work life, their teams, ongoing engagement with their colleagues, the tasks they have to repeat every day, month, week and what their greatest painpoints are. We think outside the intranet to the real-world work lives of your staff, and then consider how the intranet may be able to assist or transform those processes and services.

9. Be consistent, not uniform

We generate a style and layout templates for your site. This creates consistency and means your administrators can quickly and easily create pages and sections. However, the templates can still be customised by admins to manage different types of content.

10. Make things open: it makes things better

We believe that intranet projects and ongoing site feedback should be transparent to all staff in an organisation. As part of an intranet project we create an area on your site for project notes and presentations, user research, staff surveys, site feedback and support forums. We also advocate for non-moderated comments and content uploads. If something isn't working or a wrong decision has been made then let's own it, learn from it, and fix it.