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I'm working with a client on a website redevelopment project where the site in question targets two main end user types, lets call them 'Business-A' and 'Business-B'.

EDIT
Apologies; I failed to mention first time round that the site also contains products which are equally applicable to both business groups but are not tailored toward those users in any way, if that makes any difference?

EDIT 2
In addition to this, we plan to have product listings under each business area showing the products applicable to that area. When a user clicks on a product on the listing under 'Business-A', they are taken to the 'products' area to view the product. However, we also plan to have a generic listing under the 'products' area. The crux of the problem is that under this generic products listing how do we decide which variant of the product to show; the Business-A variant, or the 'Business-B' one ?

At the moment the site lists the same product under two different areas of the site so we effectively have:

site.com\
         business-a\
                    product-x-for-business-a
                    product-y-for-business-a (etc...)
         business-b\
                    product-x-for-business-b
                    product-y-for-business-b (etc...)
         products\
                  product-z
                  product-aa (etc...)

To me this just feels wrong and I would never choose to organise a site this way as it would:

  1. be more difficult to maintain for content editors*

  2. be confusing for users who might have browsed a product under one area one day, then see more or less the same product another day when they arrive at the site from a search

  3. be less effective in terms of SEO best practices



* this point could be mitigated somewhat in this instance using cloning features of the chosen CMS.

So... Are there any other arguments against this approach which I might have overlooked here?

And... Are there alternative solutions to this problem? I thought about having single product pages, with supporting pages/content for each product targeted at the business-a and business-b, but this feels a little cumbersome to me.

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3 Answers 3

You are confusing the user interface with the information architecture of the site. Just because you have a hierarchy that shows the product in two places does not mean that you should maintain two separate pages of product information, pricing, etc.

For example, on a clothing store you might list stuff under /clothing/summer/product, and you might also allow users to look under /clothing/shirts/product. Listing the product in two places is not the same as having two products. The URL is simply the API that 'queries' content for the user... don't think of it as a direct folder representation of your digital files.

Now, if the way the product is marketed is very different to these two users, you might want to maintain separate instances or views of it as they may be interested in different features. However, if that were true you probably wouldn't have asked this question.

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1  
Uum.. I don't think I am confusing user interface with information architecture actually and I'm aware that the way products are displayed/queried doesn't have to relate 1:1 to content items as I'm a software developer. What I'm trying to find out is whether having two versions of the same thing, albeit with different audience in mind, is a bad thing or not. If there is good justification for two versions of a page, then so be it, but if not, I'd like to know about alternative approaches. –  Matthew Dresser May 22 '12 at 18:50
    
I don't think there is any harm at all in having two views of the same product, at least unless there are some unmentioned oddities of the site. –  Myrddin Emrys May 22 '12 at 19:16
1  
Are they literally 2 identical versions? Or are they two different versions? That's the key factor. –  DA01 May 22 '12 at 19:24
    
There are two different versions in the current site. –  Matthew Dresser May 23 '12 at 7:26
    
If you're worried about duplicate content from an SEO perspective, or you want to concentrate everything in one place, remember that you can conditionally load in content on the page based on the navigational path that the user has taken to reach the page itself (eg. if they've been to /clothing/summer.html then you can pull in summer related content with AJAX when they reach the /clothing/shirts/product.html page). –  dhmholley May 23 '12 at 10:20

If they are equally applicable to both end users, and are not tailored specifically, I can't fathom why you even need to split them into two sections??

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I think it mostly comes down to the content. How much better (for the user) is to write specific content for each business type? There's a cost to creating and maintaining X times the no. of pages. so you want to make sure it's worthwhile.

I'd definitely consider whether whether one page can be designed to target all areas.

If you do go down the bespoke content route, then you're probably going to want to add some kind of navigation from each of the product page variants to the domain specific version. If the user arrives on the site on the general product page one of the business areas is still going to be interesting to them.

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