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I am building a website where there is one main site and multiple subsites.

Each subsite targets a different audience trying to accomplish different tasks. Because of that, styling and structure on the subsites vary (e.g. some subsites have side navigation while others do not). However, at the top of each subsite, I do have a global navigation bar that makes it easy to navigate between sites.

Is it considered a bad practice to have subsites that may be drastically different? Or is it okay as long as the changes meet the needs the user is expecting to complete?

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  • By subsite, do you mean mainsite.com/subsite? or do you mean each subsite has indenpendent urls but are owned by one company (e.g. GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, etc)? What type of products are in these subsites? – Nicolas l Open to work May 29 '20 at 2:47
  • @Nicolas Hung It's probably a mix. The concept is more like one company with multiple brand sites (like your GAP example). However, I don't have the bandwidth to keep up with sites on independent URLs. So the structure is more like company.com/gap or company.com/old-navy. Some of the sites are blogs and some of them are more interactive (like tools that I've built and want to host). There is a common theme though, so it's not just a bunch of random sites. – JustBlossom May 29 '20 at 14:36
  • Will your users often come into the subsites through the main company? Ir are they different enough to enter each subsite separately without knowing the umbrella company? It would help alot if you can give a real example. – Nicolas l Open to work May 29 '20 at 16:14
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I have worked on similar project. Having different styling for subsite is not a bad thing, and at the same time it is not advisable and recommended to have it with drastic visual design changed, Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. There is already a parent website that is familiar with your target audience, if they are used to using it they wouldn't appreciate a new look unless it doesn't take away their freedom of operation and emotions.
  2. The effect of point 1 is, you loose trust on your parent website usage by certain % initially that may affect your purpose of website.
  3. There are Design and Developer challenges if you change drastically and time taken for development will be appreciably more.
  4. This increases your target delivery time,delivery dates and also you need to create a style guide, else you might end up in trouble in syncing the vision, design and overall harmony of website with your developer team.

So, my recommendation would be to sync with the parent website. Drastic change can be good experience in terms of designing but ideally should not be the cost of problem solving.

So, you put on points to each and decide. Good luck.

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    On the other hand, if it looks too much the same, the user could get confused between different products. Let's say you have a marketplace CMS, and then you have a payment plugin. You would want to have a subsite for the payment plugin, but it has to be considerably different for users to notice the brand distinction for the payment plugin – jonvyltra May 29 '20 at 2:49
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    True, My take would be have a discussion with the development team and also the Project team and outline the constraints to decide on whether the changes need to be drastic, or a stlyle changes in certain modules of subsite. But, thanks for pointing out this point of view too. – Ashwin Kulkarni May 29 '20 at 4:15
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    In addition to @jonvyltra's good point, you don't want your subpages to be completely identical if this means the user feels they never left the previous page. You want them to feel they left the previous page, but not the website. So instead of making the subpage different, use variations that conform to the design system/style of the whole website/brand. In short: don't confuse your users, (pleasantly) surprise them :) – Jos van Weesel May 29 '20 at 7:47

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