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I was recently tasked with re-designing the header for 3 websites that all belong to one parent company. Each website is a unique learning program that the parent company offers. While all programs are part of an overall curriculum, each program is marketed and generally presented as a stand alone product.

My current challenge is designing a header or a top bar above each website's main header & navigation that offers quick links to each of these programs. My solution at the moment is exactly this, a universal header that displays a link to each website and highlights the website the user is currently on.

I am having trouble finding the resources and information on best practices or standards for approaching parent/child websites like this. I have found some websites that are already doing this but would like to dig deeper into the subject and possibly understand the psychology behind this a bit more.

My question: Are there any resources or known best practices for multi-brand website headers? Is there a specific name for this kind of header that would help me find more information?

Note: The examples below were found in this article but I am wondering if there is any information specific to the design and usability of a header like this.

Examples: www.codecanyon.net, www.gap.com

Thanks in advance

  • I think they are called "Cross Site" menu/header – stradled Mar 3 '16 at 16:34
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When users land on a webpage, they usually get there by searching for a relevant search term before. This means that they have an intent. Businesses usually want to convert that intent into a purchase before the user gets distracted.

Placing links to other alternatives, even if they are from your own company, could potentially result in drop-offs. To counter this, links to sister sites are minimised into one simple link or de-emphasised through other means. For example, see Carsales network.

Other than this primary factor, there are a number of other contributing factors one could consider when making this decision:

  1. What is the relationship between the sites? Do they complement each other or compete against themselves?
  2. What stage of product maturity each product is in? Is a new brand being introduced that needs more exposure?
  3. What is the behaviour of new visitors vs registered users? Is there a benefit to showing them different site headers?
  4. Is the user arriving on the site from paid advertising? Is yes, is there a strategy in place to capture maximum value from these visitors?
  5. What is the relative monetisation value of each site? Is one better than the others?
  6. Is there a recognisable, primary brand that drives all traffic to the network of sites?

All these and more could be evaluated to decide what layout is best for your network of sites. Ideally the headers could be designed for different use cases as I've listed above.

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I definitely don't know of any best practices that are relevant, because every company and business should have a branding guideline and communication strategy to suit the digital part of their operations. So whether it is a company that owns many different brands and want a link to their parent brand, or a company that wants to keep their separate brands unique, there should be a standard that defines how the branding is applied across digital assets like websites and apps. This is the whole purpose of the branding guide, which you adapt and integrate into the visual and interaction design style.

One thing that has become popular to help with consistency of branding and ease of the application of branding across diverse products and assets is the design of logos that are modular in structure (so that it can be combined with other elements) or style (so that the colours and highlights can be substituted). The best example of the latter is the city of Melbourne logo redesign.

But I think you really have to involve the marketing and communication team in this particular discussion because it has to work across the whole company and align with the branding strategy.

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