Aug. 1, 2014

/ design & content

Corporately does not mean boring. How to build a modern website of a large company?

Katarzyna Wołyniak

Currently, awareness of corporations to build the credibility of the company is already so high that none of them needs to be convinced of the need for a website. Today it seems obvious to us, but even five years ago, half of the companies did not exist on the Internet, and those few who had the website did not use its full potential. By 2014, it is difficult to imagine website without a contact form. Back then there was nothing surprising in this.

Nobody is wondering now whether to create a website, but rather how to do it: how to create a professional website of a company? What elements should it have? How to design great User Interface so that visitors could find the information that the company wants to convey?

Small fry vs. Big Fish

According to the researches about a half of the corporate websites is formed to present catalogs of products or services. The smaller the company is, the easier it is to design its website. So we usually have Services section and pages like: About Us, History, Contact. And that would be usually it if we are talking about micro companies, employing few people and operating locally. For larger players, however, it gets complicated.

As important as presentation of services and products it is to provide a founding myth, history, achievements or status in the industry. In addition, a website is often an intranet platform for employees, which involves the design of the login panel and a greater emphasis on security of personal data, as well as testing for user experience in order to assure that website usage is as easy for managers, as for serial employee of the company. As Bill Gates said, in the digital era, each worker must be a white collar worker. It is hard to disagree with him. However it is crucial to keep in mind that corporate website should facilitate the work of anyone who would benefit from it.

Should be clear and transparent

It is said that corporate website should be simple and transparent, because in the end content is the most important. I fully agree with that, but at the same time I think that little tuning will not hurt it. Tuning means modern design, animations or elements differing from the traditional layout. All these changes can have a positive impact on the company's image: add prestige, show that it keeps up with current trends and ensure its contractors that during cooperation they will not collide with the ossified structures of the previous era. It is also justified taking into account that current trends in web design are simplifying layouts, using large clear fonts, images and unified color scheme. The so-called flat design is ideal for creating toned, yet progressive sites. Resignation of deep gradations, shadows and textures  makes website look more exclusive.
But the problem is that only few corporations want to follow modern trends: they do not associate them with seriousness and stability which their customers require. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are a few examples that effectively break this stereotype.

    Exonmobile corporation annually placing itself  among the  largest companies in the world (in 2012 took first place in the Forbes ranking). Company focuses on modernity: website has box-based layout and is responsive, meaning that it adapts to mobile devices. They also know the power of large fonts, which increase transparency and are now a must have for each project.
    General Electric, another colossus of the Forbes list, goes one step further, and publishes colorful infographics on the corporate website. Thanks to them we are getting familiar with the history of the corporation in unconventional way, but much more interesting than the traditional timeline.
    HSBC website is at first glance prepared in line with modern web design thought: good block layout, clear message, large images and explicit fonts. Everything would be fine if not the fact that the page is not responsive. It constantly surprises me that as Big Fishes as HSBC forget such a basic functionality. It is unlikely that HSBC customers and partners do not use tablets or smartphones.
    Currently, it can’t be said that the site is fully functional, if it doesn’t have a responsive version. Even the best layout, information architecture and the most perfect message simplicity will not work on a smartphone, if website is not adapted to it. Raise your hand all of you who are not irritated when you have to scroll back and forth to find the relevant information on your cell.
    Another example of underdeveloped website. BP is well designed graphically. It has subtle animations, transitions, it is easy to navigate, but also here somebody forgot about Responsive Design. This allows the assumption that many customers give up from visiting the site.
    Intercore’s corporate site was designed in accordance with the latest trends: large background images, lots of non-invasive, not imposing animations, transitions and clear, varied fonts. It would seem that the site meets all the standards of modern web design. You just want to invest, if you have something to do that;) But enthusiasm expires at the moment when we try to read about the company on our smartphone or iPad. It is almost impossible because site isn’t responsive. It's a shame, because for such complex layout it won’t be easy to add responsiveness later on.
    Customers often ask me about the possibility of designing pages tailored to smaller devices based on an existing desktop version of the site. Those who think about savings may be disappointed: it is as if we built a house and because of the costs resigned from windows deciding to install them later. After all, walls’ demolition to prepare window openings generates additional costs. Similarly, in case of designing a website: the most cost effective solution is to plan responsive design right away.
    The Republican Party of Florida knew how to attract voters. Its project is based on the tiles which are known to all users of Windows 8. UX of this website is not perfect (Why they send user to Facebook by a huge tile? He should spend as much time on the site as possible!), but the bookmarks are so well designed graphically, that you can forgive a small stumble. Additionally, the site is designed responsively, so voters can easily vote via smartphone.
    Finally let’s take a closer look on U.S. Air Force website. Although it is not responsive, and although it's easy to get lost in the abundance of information, its ideally suited to the subject graphic design convinces me: dark colors, large images, lots of movies. User can play the game of his tactical skills examination (a shame that it was not designed in HTML5 but in Flash), test equipment and recruit through the Internet via live chat and an interactive map that allows you to locate the nearest collection point. However if the desire to start a military career starts to bug us for example in the bus, there might be a problem: site is not suitable for mobile devices.

Modern means prestige

Corporate website doesn’t have to be boring. You can use the modern solutions, without a fear of losing position or harming good image of the brand. Trends in web design suit large corporations perfectly, turning to the simplicity and easy navigation. Adding to this properly thought out information architecture, a highest-quality website appropriate to our times can be created.

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