Guidance & How To

Vanity pages: how to transform them

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in August 2010 ……


I often hear people say they don’t want “vanity pages” on their intranets. By “vanity page”, they mean a page created by a team or department to show that they exist.

This post offers 3 tips for how to transform vanity pages into a starting point for a user-logical structure for the intranet.

In fact, vanity pages are an important part of intranets. They are one way to get people involved in the intranet. People want and should be able to tell others about themselves and their work.

The problem comes when the so called “vanity page” are reinforcing the enterprise silos. They hide essential information from others, reinforce the blinder syndrome and create major findability issues.

Three tips leveraging vanity pages into a user-logical

I recommend following a few simple rules:

1. Separate 3 types of content

When you have a team or department who wants “our page”, find out what they really want to do:

  1. Share on-going work documents among themselves
  2. Propose services and provide information to other employees
  3. Present themselves and “make their existence known”!

Type 1 belongs in a team place, restricted or not.

Type 2 should appear in an “Employee Services” or similar section, organized by type of service, not by who is providing it.

Type 3  is what we might call “vanity” but which in fact can be transformed into a very useful section of the intranets: the “About” section.

2. Create an “About Our Company” section

Every intranet needs an “About” section. It should be mandatory that all divisions, business units, support functions, departments and so on be present. The content may be written by communicators, by the people themselves, or, ideally, a combination of both.

There should be a minimum required, based on a template that everyone uses. There should be room for people to add more content as they wish.

The “About” section needs an owner. It is usually the communications department who owns it.

3. Identify the owners of each page in the “About” section

Make sure there is a name and contact information for each page in this section. “For more information, contact …”

Breaking the enterprise silos

The above may sound simple, but it’s not easy in global companies or in organizations where the intranet is not yet the way of working and suffers from internal power politics.

Dealing with Type 2 is the hardest

The hardest to achieve is Type 2 as described above. It is a major challenge to take information and services provided to employees by many support functions in the organization, and group them into user-logical categories.

If you encounter resistance, try some card-sorting. I did this in a enterprise where we were having difficulty getting the HR manager to understand that an “HR” category was not the best way to organize her services. We listed all the chunks of information and services from her department and others on individual cards, asked a group of “normal users” to sort them into categories. We invited her to observe the group work. To her credit, she got the message and became one of the “user-logic advocates” in the company.