I am working on a suite of subscription based products under the same brand. Some are content driven, and some are data driven, but the users are mostly the same. Currently, the interface and navigation of the products vary greatly as the front end gets updated sporadically. I have been given the task of unifying the products- making them feel as one under the brand and making it easier to navigate cross product without "feeling" like the user is leaving one product and entering another. This is quite hard given the complexity of the products and again, some being content and some data. Another challenge is that the user sees different information depending on what and how much they have subscribed to. Currently, the team proposed we create "one header".

Does anyone have experience with this type of thing and could give me some resources or advice?



There is nothing we can do to make the design challenge less challenging or make the amount of work smaller. My tip is to look at what others do and learn from them.

I know Envato has different products.

.. and Zurb

From the jQuery website you can navigate to other libraries (in the top bar).

And of course the Stackexchange websites.

Just by the brief visits alone when collecting these links, I can already say unifying the header is done by all these examples. But by taking one step back you can see it's more about making components the same. The same shape, the same font, the same base colours, etc. The difference lies in the bolder accent colours. They gave every product it's own theme with it's own color scheme. The base colours are the same, like for example an offwhite color for the background, the same shade of black for the font, but different colours for the header, buttons and other links.

That is if you would want to unify the products, but still give the products their own unique identity.
I'm currently working for a company that has, well it's basically one product, but it has a bunch of modules that are basically different products. They all look the same, but only the content differs. That would be taking it to the extreme. But we were able to start from scratch and are with an team of 8.

If the task is forcing you to revamp the entire design of all the products there are some pointers I want to leave you with. I don't know what the products are you're talking about and how loyal your customers are, but people don't like change and big changes could scare them off.
Big changes could be unavoidable, but there are some things you can do to minimize any loss.
1. Small steps. Make small changes and ease people into it.
2. Preview the design. Make the new design optional. Offer it in beta stage and ask users if they would want to test it out. This is also great for testing. After official release, keep the new design optional for some time and force it on the left over users after some time. Do warn them ahead of time. This method is also great, because it makes people feel as if they are early adopters. It could make users more loyal.


Paul's references are good and are some of the first I would think of as practical examples of web properties unified under a single brand experience family. I want to supplement that tactical advice by offering a strategic model I've found valuable for attacking this problem:


Visualizing the layers of abstraction helped me know where I could make a dent sooner -within my scope of control, versus where I'd need help and longer-term project support from PMO and developers and other groups. If you try to change too much too soon, you may fight very bravely and die very quickly. Approaching it in manageable chunks has helped me to actually make progress adding continuity across fragmented pieces of a portfolio.

Good luck!

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