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How to create a unique corporate identity on the Internet

I am assuming that your intention is to have a corporate site for your business.Typically the main purpose of the corporate site will be to disseminate information about the company and to position it in the market ; other qualities maybe regarded as extras. For the corporate site and indeed for any other kind of website, it is absolutely important to define the primary purpose of the site before any work begins on it in order to be able to create a web site which users will find effective, efficient and usable . Too many corporate websites often end up being about displaying the corporate needs of the company with little attention paid to the needs of the site users .

Intended audience
Who will be visiting the web site? It may be argued that just anybody can access practically any web site on the internet so there is no real need to segment users. However, a website is still very much like a product of the company whether it is a commercial or non-profit concern, and it must have a defined market or it will fail to yield any specific result. It will be important to define factor such as following:

•User categories- what age groups, and geographical distribution details are to be applied for target audience? Corporate web sites are a lot more difficult to build because not only will most of them need to be defined as a business to business (B2B) communication tool but also as a business to consumer (B2C) site.. It is quite often difficult to strike a good balance between both objectives and this often reflects in the site design.. While a design aimed for B2B interaction will expressly frown at web objects not staying in position such as in animations, a B2C design will expect to have as an essential elements a lively site which engages the attention of the user.

•Goals- what would the audience be looking forward to both from your web site and generally from their life aspirations ? Again for a B2B centered site the primary intention may be to impress other businesses and affiliates with details of infrastructure and with financial information. This is of little use in a B2C oriented design where the user will be more interested in matters of the nearest sales or business office , bargains and promotions, and also visual demonstration off the company’s products in use.

The foregoing should define the basic structure of the proposed site , and the right mix of these requirements will differ from business to business.

Pages and information
Having sufficiently defined the required structure of the planned website through the purpose and user needs it may now be easier to determine what type content will attract them and also meet their needs. Typically the major components of a well –planned corporate website will be the :textual and image contents, downloadable contents and also a database which will enable interactivity.
•Text and image content - will need to be hierarchically structured and conveniently made accessible through an intuitive system of menus and submenus.
•Download content - such as forms, brochures, software, financial statements, are now considered essential features of the corporate site, as they effectively help to reduce overhead previously wasted on mailing these items .They also need to be made easily available and to be of easily manageable sizes.
•Database - will often be needed to enable the implementation of dynamic site contents. These days it has become standard for corporate sites to be crated from Content Management Systems which rely extensively on one or several online databases.

Quality and usability
To assemble the right mix of content for a corporate sight is often a job for experts, but thankfully worked examples are already on the internet .Therefore the task that will be of more concern should be to assemble them in a manner which demonstrates acceptable quality and usability goals for the specific company. Some imitable goals for a corporate web site project should be :
•Professionalism - The website must be seen as well conceived and professionally constructed . Dead links and uncompleted pages will usually give the impression that a company is careless and unreliable. A corporate web site ought to demonstrate the superiority of the company or at least show that it is equal in stature to its competitors.
•Navigability - The website must be constructed in a manner which makes it easy for users to locate information quickly
•Evaluation – The website must make it possible for site administrators to access user statistics to all pages.

When juxtaposed with all other business objectives of a company ,it should be possible from defined structure of a proposed corporate web site to determine what level of expertise will be required to build the web site.. It will also be possible to determine what web technologies will be appropriate. These days most corporate web sites are built on a framework of Content Management System of which there are several varieties created from several technologies. Again while some companies will place the lower cost of using open source software above other considerations, others will feel more comfortable with proprietary platforms or custom built applications. These considerations will have a direct influence on the cost of the webs site.

Structure and content
The corporate website is only as good as the accessibility of the contents. If the information is not easily accessible then it is unlikely to be useable to site visitors. Information needs to be structured in a way that will be meaningful to the audience.

Users must be helped to find their way around the site through the use of intuitive menus and also a site map. One idea that works quite nicely is to make the target audience feel “at home” on the website by using navigation conventions similar to that of sites which they are also likely to visit, or are likely to be familiar with. Speed is of essential consideration on the internet – a site with pages that load too slowly is likely to only frustrate users with slow internet connection and eventually become quickly unpopular. Loading the site with files which will take hours to download , will effectively make them ignored .Accessibility standards these days require that when images are used on a web page , alternative text description should be available for such images This is primarily because some users turn off graphics on their browsers in order to increase speed . The visually impaired also use text only browsers so it will be wise to provide support for these to satisfy acceptable standards for accessibility and usability.

- [continued]- From my book "Digital Marketing"

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