The first indication that Microsoft.com is based on a strong WCM platform is the excellent division of specific areas of solutions, segments, and product sectors, all unified by common messaging and a consistency of content. The content in the site is current to the specific messaging of Microsoft today, including the launch of Windows Vista and the increased focus on Longhorn downloads for testing by beta testers. The content also provides excellent user-level guidance on office productivity, enterprise applications, and entire mini-sites dedicated to how to get more value out of their server products.
Oracle is one of the leading providers of WCM systems and their support for multiple taxonomies ion their websites illustrates the company is actually using their own software to power their websites. The organization of content by the role of the visitor to the website also illustrates a strong WCM system being in place as well.
Too much content and not enough clarity as to just what the product areas are vs. The service ones; this site is overrun with content and writing and not clear enough on the main areas of the site to understand what the main message of the company is. There is an abundance of content on their CEO who seems to be building more of al legacy than explaining why the products make sense for the unmet needs of potential customers.
Quite frankly, it is a site that shows there is no content management system in place within this company, and the lack of consistency around how content supports the specific images makes the site difficult to navigate and use, which is the subject of the next part of this site. While the author if this site date-stamped when the last update is, it is very unclear as to just what is topical and current on the site at all.
WCM systems form the foundation of many of the world's leading websites, and this is best illustrated by the support of multiple role-based content definitions across an entire website. Microsoft and Oracle's support of roles-based content queries is a case in point.
Evidence of a WCM System in place at Microsoft.com (Notice the level of detail in the content driving the industry definitions - evidence of a strong WCM system)
Evidence of a WCM System in place at Oracle.com
Navigation Design and Assessment of Logic
This is the one aspect of a website design that is the most difficult to attain without much experience in how different website visitors and users interact with and eventually become loyal to a website. In the case of Microsoft and Oracle, their content management taxonomies, their approaches to organizing the various segments of content, and the roles-based approach to navigation depending on the role of purchasers all point to exceptional depth of knowledge in what users want in terms of navigational design and logic flow. The worst sites of Cincom.com and freemaps.com on the other hand show that a deliberate assumption has been made that all users will interact at a comparable level with the website, and therefore there is no need to have a workflow-based logic applied to the knowledge itself. This is a major limitation of any website, and if this were a weighted analysis, navigation design and assessment of logic would have the highest percentage of points associated with it.
The highest performing website on this dimension have an intuitively easy navigational structure, advanced search functionality, multiple views of the site map, logical menu systems, and a series of breadcrumbs to specifically show the navigational elements of the site. The following table shows how navigational design can either be a best or worst practice for any website. Many organizations actively measure this attribute through the use of social science-based research, including actively monitoring users' perceptions of the functionality of websites' navigational ease of difficulty.
Navigation Design/Assessment of Logic
Microsoft has in 2007 moved to a pop-up navigational interface as is shown below, which brings graphical icons for each Windows products when the Products and Related Technologies Section is selected in the website. Notice that the layering of the navigation makes it intuitively obvious where the user is in the context of the website. Microsoft also has a breadcrumbs-driven interface that includes the navigational path across the top of the screen as well. Navigational design and logic also include the ability to quickly get to support and service information over new product information - both workflows are optimized.
In the figure below notice that Oracle is providing both a purely product-driven taxonomy for the user to traverse in looking for information on the one hand and also offering a very process-centric approach to organizing the information in the left column in the other.
The Evaluate, Implement, Use workflow is a case in point, and is also evidence that their WCM system is designed to be very process-centric in its approach to managing content.
Navigational paths and logic flows tend to overlap one another and make the task of finding essential information very difficult. There is no actual approach to making the site cohesive, and the lack of navigational consistency is obvious.
Freemap.com flat and very one-dimensional site from a navigational perspective, this site lacks navigation and the trailing cursor is a real pain to use to get anywhere on the site. The fact this site uses frame only a very large, high resolution monitor could make sure of is another example of why the site should stay away from this approach to managing content. Navigation links are sometimes horizontal, sometimes vertical yet always confusing to use and difficult to work with.
Website screen from Microsoft.com selecting the Windows products:
Website screen from Oracle.com selecting products:
In the worst performing sites this is where the developers choose extensive and often intricate frames to complete their designs at the expense of creating a more unified and intuitive flow to the site. In the case of the top-performing websites on the other hand, the page and site design is considered superior due to the strong focus on making the page balance as part of the overall site. Companies who often achieve best practices in this area include a balanced set of images on their web pages, re-arrange their page structures to make them look less cluttered (like Microsoft does today), and also reduce the number of conflicting colors on the site as well. The use of horizontal menu items is also much easier for users to navigate, regardless of the screen resolution used.
Excellent use of frames and navigation along with graphics that make the site inviting and intuitive to use. The structure of the front page of the site lends itself well to the creation of promotions and key product announcements on the front page as well. Each subsequent section of the site also is consistent with this approach and allows for each product group to define its own messaging within the structure of the site itself.
Oracle uses a very innovative approach to organizing pages with the process workflow of the specific software product aligned with the left column of the website, and also includes a hierarchical flow of content in the middle of the page itself.
While Cincom uses a series of templates for simplifying the layout of content and its use, and also includes the use of pages for specific product areas. The content on each page however is inconsistent and often quite comprehensive. The lack of editing standards is clear from the rambling and often confusing text on the pages, in addition to variations in page design.
The site design is a disaster and the specific pages show a lack of forethought in how they were organized with frames.
Microsoft.com Page and Site Design (Notice the large Xbox picture and the framing of the site, balanced, across the entire front page. This makes for ease of navigation and an intuitive approach to finding needed information).
Oracle.com Page and Site Design (Notice along the lower part of the front page of the Oracle.com website and the excellent page design, and with it, site design to support Customer Spotlight, News, and Special Offers)
The functionality of allowing users to define the which content they want to see, be alerted on when new content of interest becomes available, and also track the search and use behavior of users online are all part of personalization. There have been literally dozens of studies completed that illustrate how personalization drives up the "stickiness" or loyalty to a website. The fact that more and more companies are rewarding those most frequent website visitors with more special offers and discounts is a marketing strategy that is based on capitalizing on customer loyalty. Personalization needs to be flexible enough to fulfill the unmet information needs of users of…