The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs nearly 378,000 people. In an organization that size, one intranet definitely doesn’t fit all, leading departments like the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to develop an intranet specifically for its own staff. Its effectiveness has won first place in the “Usability” category of Ragan’s 2018 Intranet Awards.
The 2018 redesign of the intranet, which uses WordPress as its platform, was undertaken with three guiding principles: Use the natural capabilities of HTML and CSS for layouts, add content with purpose to meet the needs of stakeholders (including visuals) and make content accessible to all users.
With these top-level goals established, OIT set a series of usability goals. These included anticipating user needs through human-centered design (which addressed the accessibility issue; as the team notes, “Most VA employees are veterans, many of whom sustained service-related injuries that impair their abilities to consume information the way other employees might”); auditing and reviewing content and creating a content plan to refresh the intranet’s materials; and standardizing branding, codifying intranet design into a publicly-available design guide to ensure cohesive branding across sites and publications.
A significant research project was undertaken to assess workforce needs, the result of which fed the design. Since the update was completed, visits to the organization’s intranet site have more than doubled. A quarterly employee survey revealed that employees also are engaged in more two-way communication between senior leadership and employees in the field.
By focusing on usability, the VA’s OIT has delivered a resource that empowers every employee to contribute to the agency’s mission—particularly important given that OIT influences nearly every benefit, service and health interaction veterans have with the VA.