BC Tip: The Independent Group – lacking visibility

A new UK political grouping launched in a blaze of publicity recently, but their website was left in the shadows

The Independent Group’s website

The Independent Group’s website

The Feature

The UK’s proposed exit from the European Union is having profound political effects, and one recent development has been the formation of a new political alliance by defectors from the main parties.

The politicians have called themselves ‘The Independent Group’, and launched their venture with a great deal of attention in the UK.

While they have amassed significant numbers of followers on various social media networks, their brief website https://www.theindependent.group/ has come in for some very public criticism in the mainstream press and broadcast channels. Images are repetitive, and often of low quality.

It is not very visible on search engines: a search for ‘the independent group’ only revealed the official site on the fifth page of Google results. Results for news coverage of the group, and for sites about a movement of artists in the 1950s with the same name, dominated the results listings.

The Takeaway

It is unsurprising that such a controversial project should come in for criticism, and perhaps the group should not be judged too harshly for having a website without a lot of material on it at this early stage in their existence - but undoubtedly it could have been slicker.

Digital managers preparing for the launch of sites at short notice – for use in a crisis, perhaps – would do well to note the effects of an obvious lack of preparation, and in particular poor image choice.

Clearly social media has been the focus for The Independent Group, but the lack of attention to the website’s search engine visibility is questionable – especially if the group becomes a party, as it is likely to do so, and needs to attract donations and publicise its policies. Any company will be unable to rely on social media visibility alone.

How visitors will find you is a key question for any new website – especially if you do not have control over your name or even URL, and/or you do not have a lot of material to start with. Paid search marketing may well be worth considering in this case – but long-term, a good organic search presence is essential.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: BBC News – A very usable filtering system

Elegant handling of complex filters draws readers in to a collection of articles on British jihadists.

BC tip - jihadis.png

The Feature

The BBC news website has a database of over 250 British jihadists, which it claims is ‘the most comprehensive public record of its kind’.

It presents this information on a standard page using a series of filters which control the profiles of jihadists in real time further down the page.

There are two levels of buttons: the first, colour coded, allows users to filter by the current status of the individuals. The next level can be used to narrow down by category, such as ‘Attack planners’ or ‘Converts’.

Below this three drop-down lists allow further refinement by age, gender and hometown. Finally there is a free text name search, a results counter, and the option to view the profiles in grid or list format.

The profiles themselves display head shots where available, and on click, display summary details of the individuals with links to further articles featuring them on the BBC web estate.

The Takeaway

A jihadist database may not have obvious parallels with online corporate communications, but the filtering system is notable for the way it elegantly allows users to drill down into information, and then discover related pages.

Knowing what we do of the BBC’s approach to website usability, we expect this will have been rigorously tested.

It packs a lot of functionality into a compact area. The filters are complex and multi-layered, yet the layout is easy to understand and use. The combination of colour coding, real-time results, buttons used with drop-downs, and the results counter means that the effect of the user’s filtering choices is immediately obvious, and can be quickly undone or amended. It also enables browsing or targeted searching.

The BBC’s filtering system could be applied to any area of a corporate digital site that needs to present a lot of information, and onward links, in a usable way. News and feature repositories, product selectors and even board and committee pages could benefit.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985

Found: search tools that really work

Corporate websites with huge search boxes are trendy.

US conglomerate General Electric's new home page has one. So does the new global site from Italian energy group Eni. Web teams at numerous other companies have told us that they’re thinking of following suit.

Such moves are brave, because corporate websites’ internal search engines are, traditionally, rubbish.

Indeed, for many companies' sites, visitors are better off using Google to find material than the internal search engine. Ironically, this also applies to Google’s own corporate web presence.

But there are some noble exceptions to the substandard-search rule. Here are some:

KPMG

Given the bountiful material available on this Big Four auditor's web estate, users need a powerful search tool – and that is exactly what the firm has delivered on its new global corporate website.

Predictive search terms appear intuitively in an overlay panel for many searches. And the tool remembers the last three searches carried out - these too are presented in the overlay panel, for ease of reference.

Search results are clear and meaningful. Dates are included on timely content, such as reports and corporate announcements, which helps users to quickly gauge relevance.

An excellent array of filtering options is provided to help users home in on relevant results, including tabs for selecting the type of content (Insights, Events, People), sorting options (by date, relevance or popularity) and an extensive set of left-hand topic filters designed to allow people to reach deep into the company's troves of articles and reports to find items that are specifically useful.

The 'People' filter is a good innovation. Search for 'Advisory' and 406 people are found. It appears that KPMG has essentially opened up its internal employee directory - at least where its public-facing employees are concerned - adding a valuable new dimension to the search function and making it easier for customers, journalists and industry professionals to find and contact relevant people inside the company.

Most importantly, the search function appears to have good accuracy: it returned good or excellent results in almost all of our latest tests.

Microsoft

This technology giant continues to have a spectacularly fragmented web estate. But its powerful, cleanly presented search engine helps users to find material scattered across the firm's crazy patchwork of microsites.

Results pages are logically laid out. Anchor links in the left column allow visitors to jump quickly to specific types of results, which are neatly grouped under clear headings.

What's more, corporate material search is seamlessly integrated into Microsoft’s consumer search: the main search engine is as comfortable finding careers and media information as it is music, apps and games (elegant, though I'm not sure how useful a combined search for music tracks and corporate content really is in practice).

Inspiration elsewhere

Other companies’ search tools shine in some areas.

Danish shipping group Maersk's internal search function is well designed and potentially very powerful - a good source of inspiration for any web manager researching ideas for improving their own search tool (look, for example, at the filter panel presentation and the tags to the right of search results in the the screenshot below).

 

The search results pages on both Eni.com and GE.com also provide web managers with plenty of new ideas for designing filters and grouping results in visually clear and elegant ways (see the screenshots below).

US media conglomerate Comcast’s search filters, and its tabbed separation of ‘web’ and ‘image’ search results, are neat.

 

Semiconductor maker Texas Instruments’ product, technical documents and support search and filter tools are very useful - though visitors searching for corporate materials will find no filters catering for them.

Perhaps this is because Texas Instruments puts all its time and money into getting its product-related search tools right, as that's where they think the money is. And perhaps that line of thinking is partly why so many purely corporate website search tools are so poor compared to their e-commerce counterparts. 

- Scott Payton