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Corporate websites appeal to multiple audiences. I've seen from benchmarking the majority of sites have based their navigation around the audience segments. You'll see Investors in the main navigation & Suppliers for example. Is this the best way to structure the content?

A suggestion that was made from the client was from the homepage getting the user to select which type of user they are and be served relevant content. To me this doesn't feel right, I can't quite articulate why. Are there any issues with navigation structured around audience segment and getting the user to decide which type of user they are from the homepage?

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5 Answers 5

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If your class of user is clearly defined by both you AND your users, then it is generally a safe option to show content selectively to each user class. The advantage of this is that you don't have to clutter the interface with content that a user class will not be interested in, and you can therefore streamline the experience for them.

Examples of where it is clear: Universities in choosing between students and teachers. Corporate sites in choosing between investors and customers.

Very often though, there will be no clear separation between user classes. In this case it is a poor choice to show different content, as it is likely that your user will feel like you are hiding some content from them. Even though this is the case, many corporate sites still separate them for reasons that have little to do with good UX.

Take the Dell and Lenovo websites. I work from home but run a company. Am I a private user? A home office? A small business? The choice has always struck me as an example of terrible UX.

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The Dell example looks pretty horrible as it forces you into ambiguous segments, but in the case of Lenovo's navigation, it looks like the "solutions for" just offer an alternative view onto their product portfolio (that can be accessed through the menu on the left). This way, users who know what they are looking for (e.g. "a thinkpad") can just go there directly, whereas users who don't ("I need to procure laptops for my large enterprise") can go through the "solutions for" menu for a more guided / curated route. –  Michel Jansen Feb 21 '13 at 11:19

Corporate websites indeed have different audiences, especially if it's an horizontally structured company.

If you're talking about an intranet or internal site, you may find useful to identify the Intranet Maturity step that you're standing on, you may add or features that could automatically identify your audience.

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From Digital Dashboard onward, you may require to have user-customized content, and your intranet backbone, should be able to support and identify user-specific content and relevant information, based on their preferences, the organization/division/department they work for, etc.

However, for a customer facing website, having a website trunk that gives users a unique corporate face, and then guiding the user to specific branches of the corporation might be the way to go (even if the links at your homepage point to sub-domains).

Unlike Intranets, Corporate websites might not be able to identify easily audiences for a first time visitor.

To answer your question, depending if the website you're talking about is for customers or employees, and at what stage of "maturity" you are, the answer varies.

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All stakeholders have a common interest in your company: your product. Show your product/ service before they choose the type of specific task they want to perform on the site.

What if the user has never heard of the company and just wants to explore what the company is about, without thinking about roles?

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That's not the way to STRUCTURE content. Only to represent it.

For example, both Investors and Suppliers want to read about company. Company page is site.com/company/ Definitely, you can't create two duplicating pages: site.com/investors/company/ and site.com/suppliers/company/

So if you want to create such page, site.com/investors/, it would only be promo page, not content page.

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I think the client made a very valuable suggestion. It sounds like the gap lies in how-to best implement a solution around a very sound idea. It comes down to analytic and data mining your users interaction with the site and making a mechanism that over time based on user data decides what type of user they are without the user knowing and serves appropriate side bar / content blocks / etc... possibly even changes the sort order of navigation to match the users preferences. A certain amount of this type of state can be stored in cookies or sessions on the server.

The alternative is put the carrot in-front of the horse and focus your call out content on the segments and depending on the path the user first interacts with in a meaningful way, lead them where you would want that type of user to go.

This type of on-site personalization in my opinion will be a very big trend in 2013 - 2014.

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could you provide an example where this is happening? like reordering navigation based on your pressumed intersts. –  user1721135 Feb 21 '13 at 9:52
    
Take a look at a company called Medio –  mprototype Feb 21 '13 at 22:05
    
could you give a link? is it mediosystems? –  user1721135 Feb 21 '13 at 23:36
    
medio.com –  mprototype Oct 19 '13 at 19:42

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