Eat Your Own Intranet Cooking

I’m a big fan of the phrase, “eat your own cooking”.

As a Web designer you should be doing exactly that—using the things you make. (This of course applies to just about any creative endeavor, from bridge building to cake baking.) It speaks volumes about the quality and relevance of a product if its producers are also enthusiastic consumers.

Cognitive dissonance is equally revealing. You wouldn’t trust a four star chef that serves Cheez Whiz at his home table. You wouldn’t listen to an addiction counselor who sneaks out to score smack. So why, oh why, would you deal with a “tech company” that has a train wreck for an intranet?

The vast majority of the company intranets I’ve seen in my travels have ranged in quality from the affably feeble to the criminally negligent. None has ever approached anything a sane person would call excellent. Not even on a good day.

They have been used as a pliable excuse to perpetrate all manner of horrid, insipid, flat-out unprofessional web work. Bereft both of standards awareness and common courtesy for the poor souls forced to inhabit them. They are clumsy oafs built on two left feet, stumbling about, making a mockery of accessibility and usable design while they smash the china and wreck the furniture.

Enough, I say.

The enabling phrase for all this folly typically sounds something like, “but this is for an intranet,” and it’s usually whipped out in the thick of some misguided conversation about Web Standards. The speaker assumes that because Company X has “standardized” on Browser Y, they can conveniently toss Web Standards out the window. Let’s all chug some company Kool Aid and call it a day!

Not so fast there, Sparky. I’ve got news for you: It’s a convenient theory, but it falls to pieces in practice.

Given a large enough ecosystem (ie, more than one user), you will never be able to predict your audience with 100% certainty, let alone control them. Single browser environments are both unworkable and, more importantly, illusory. Really. Even within company walls. And the bigger the audience (ie, the company) the more that 100% figure will seem like a distant dream. Give that number a nice, warm hug then kiss it goodbye—you’ll never see it again.

The bottom line is that companies need to stop fouling their nests with these relics. There’s more than enough time and money to be saved by writing to standards to pay back the effort many times over. The sooner this is realized at all levels the sooner the corporate funds draining away towards browser “deployment and enforcement” programs can be reassigned to something more useful.

Like, say, free coffee.