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Think Tank: Corporate home pages deemed 'abysmal'

Brain Food for IT Executives

By Mitch Betts
July 4, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

Global Home Pages Receive 'Abysmal' Report Cards
A global corporation's Web home page is an entry point for every conceivable visitor, from investors and business partners to customers, and research shows that you have only eight seconds in which to make a good first impression. But most corporate home pages are "abysmal," says a report by Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ron Rogowski.

Rogowski audited the home pages of the 100 biggest global companies and found a sea of wasted space, navigation problems, cryptic categories and "blocks of inane marketing messages."

The key is to conduct usability research and analyze clickstream data to figure out what visitors really want to do when they reach the home page. Success is measured not by how much time the visitor lingers, but by how fast the home page routes him to the right regional site or product page, Rogowski says.

The study found some pockets of enlightenment, at BP PLC in London, Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies in the Hague and Credit Suisse Group in Zurich. These companies track the user path off the home page to identify the most-visited areas. This guides decisions about which content and links should be included on the home page.

Royal Dutch/Shell takes it a step further and adjusts the page based on the day of the week: On weekdays, it features content aimed at investors; on weekends, it switches to content for consumers.

Best Bits

The most useful parts of recent business and IT management books

The book: The 2nd Digital Revolution, by Stephen J. Andriole (CyberTech Publishing, 2005). Apparently, in the first digital revolution, IT was used for tactical operations, whereas in the second revolution, IT is at a strategic level. I'm not so wild about the title, but the book itself has a good deal of candor about the role IT needs to play in corporate America. For example, Andriole says it's time to move beyond talking about "business alignment," which is a sequential approach, and take a more holistic approach that recognizes that business and technology are so intertwined, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Andriole—a professor at Villanova University and a Cutter Consortium consultant—calls it "business-technology convergence." CRM is a great example: It's both a business model and a technology. Or, as one prescient CIO used to say, "There are no technology decisions—only business decisions."

The 2nd Digital RevolutionThe book covers a lot of other ground, from IT governance to staffing. But it's the no-nonsense statements that I like best. On the subject of IT standardization, for example, Andriole says variation is your enemy and "nonstandardization is just plain stupid."

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