Network Navigation

I’ll paint a scene for you – you represent an organisation that is either:

Type A – multiple facilities i.e. buildings, infrastructure, assets, location. Diversified stakeholders that cover the spread across corporate, general public, specific interest groups, educated and newly aware of your offering.

Type B – is the custodian of a collective group of self sustaining brands, identities and personas i.e. the business is the umbrella marketing and operational owner of a family of best of breed products.

These represent what my esteemed colleague Simon Julian terms ‘Network Navigation’ focussed sites. Yes, you can be part of both groups whereby representation of multiple channels and being all things to all people, is a mandatory requirement. Because of the sheer volume of enquiry that they undergo both Types have site visitors that have an interest in visiting the website with the goal of learning and want an outcome to be firmly fixed into:

Type A: Where the locations are, How to get there and When to get there and what will be there when they arrive.

Type B: What product, what other products, where to buy and product specifications themselves

These are the logical outcomes of such sites. It’s what I term a somewhat ‘brochureware’ type of existence. Point & Shoot. Aim & Fire.

However, if you pause for a moment, consideration needs to be given to a raft of other areas which can be communicated – staffing & recruitment, company news, event information, shareholder enquiry etc. Existing customers and clients looking to revisit and search for updates. To extend this, these stakeholders could come to the website for specifications, support documentation and if you want to embrace Web 2.0 these very same visitors are looking for validation and confirmation via other user viewpoints – blogs, testimonials, experience driven endorsement.

Underlying all this is the driving need to clearly represent the ‘Network’ or family of products, facilities and services that the whole business represents. I’ve recently been involved in some work in network navigation website strategy and a cursory look around has yielded the following:

Epworth Health – Type A

This site is really well setup from an information layout point of view, and considering it is a hospital, the branding is not too bad. I particularly like the visual treatment in the primary navigation offered around the overarching Epworth organisation umbrella vs the different facilities locations. 2nd level primary in the upper 3rd of the page is good and drills down to content with quality layout landing pages. Colour treatment could be better, but really clutching at straws here. 9/10

Museums Victoria – Type A

Again, a visually strong site, with expected branding which is par for the course for this sort of institution. Lack of a breadcrumb is a killer. Structure of events and the information design around event treatment falls away badly as the information across pages is inconsistant. On the upside, navigationally, you are always aware where you are on the site and it is easy to get around via the persistant navigation. Annoying how it is optimised to barely skip through the screen fold – this minimal information presentation can lead to an excess of clicking around to get information being split across so many screens. 7/10

Wilson Sporting Goods – Type B

Strongly branded, taking the product approach harnessing the strength of the parent brand and than shelving off to the 14 different sporting endeavours as required. Brilliantly executed aside from the Employment Opportunities area which is laughable in its simplicity and glaring lack of branding compared to the rest of the network. Also the dealer search arriving via the evil popup window warrants a -1 point. 8/10

Coca Cola Amatil – Type B

Representative of Coca Cola, Goulburn Valley & Powerade, this is an average representation of how an umbrella brand can pale next to the strength of its subsidiary brands. Drilling down to find the brands themselves is a chore and you are left sitting there not even being able to decipher them, due to the miniscule size of the images, the errors on the page and the generally poor information design. Layout for shareholder information is a challenge too. Corporate Image representation is poor. 4/10

Mars – Type B

Aside from this site being devilishly slow, a strong representation of the brands from the umbrella perspective with succinct summaries and leads to the individually localised and branded websites. The site presents both flaws and strengths. There has been some strong effort at offering marketing led insight with a high level of visual interactivity, however it is let down by the somewhat skimpy treatment of key areas of information which umbrella company focussed visitors would be looking for. 8/10

Volkswagen AG – Type A & Type B

Austere. Minimalist. German. Not many people are aware that Volkswagen AG own Audi, Volkwagen Automotive & Commercial, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Seat, Bentley, Skoda & Scania. Easy to move around, the navigation is particularly easy to use and follow, mitigating the need for a breadcrumb. It could be argued that implicit notification of additional layers of navigation would be useful, but really just a minor point. 7/10