Every year old-school web design guru Jakob Nielsen releases a survey of the world’s top Intranets. This year’s report has some interesting comments on the use of ‘web 2.0’ techniques in company intranets. However Nielsen continues to take petty shots at the latest social web technologies. We were critical of this last year, but frankly it’s just tiresome now. Thankfully his report has some very useful information for enterprises especially, so let’s check that out.

First some context. Jakob Nielsen has produced a number of highly influential books about web design. When I started out as a webmaster back in the 90s, Nielsen’s books were a constant companion. But as the years have gone by, Nielsen has turned into something of a ‘grumpy uncle’ of the web design community. He rails against web 2.0 design theories, calls most Internet users “bozos”, and he steadfastly refuses to update the design of his own website – despite it looking like something from 1995. However despite his eccentricities, Nielsen’s reports are usually thoroughly researched and unearth some useful nuggets.

Last year Nielsen noted that enterprises “took a pragmatic approach to many hyped “Web 2.0″ techniques”. This year he wrote that this year’s Intranet winners “showed a substantial increase in both collaboration support and social networking features”. He can’t of course resist his standard potshot at the social web:

“Although inspired by the open Internet’s “Web 2.0″ sites, these features often have a much stronger business model within the enterprise, simply because they’re more useful and less subject to noise and information pollution by bozos.”

Some of the top features that Nielsen identified in the winning intranets:

  • Teams adding “Facebook-like features” to employee directories to enrich the profiles.
  • CEO blogs featuring in the vast majority of the winning intranets.
  • Employees adding their own videos to the corporate TV network.
  • Interactive forums achieving mission-critical status in some cases – e.g. “allowing consultants to post urgent requests for advice from their colleagues around the world.”

Nielsen also noted that “intranet personalization is becoming increasingly sophisticated.” He said that the leading application of personalization is to “provide each employee with news updates focused on their job role and personal interests.”

Enterprise intranets have traditionally been built on a combination of large CMS systems, such as Vignette or Interwoven, and a patchwork of bespoke software. This year, Nielsen noted that there were fewer pieces of software used in the winning intranets – “the 10 winners were built on 26 different products — substantially fewer than the 41 used in 2008 or the 49 used in 2007.”

He also pointed out that Microsoft’s SharePoint, “especially the recent MOSS platform (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007)”, was used in half of the winning intranets.

However Nielsen stated that other software is being used a lot too – multiple winners used Autonomy, Google Search, and WebTrends.

Now please let us know in the comments what web technologies and software you’re currently using in your company Intranet.