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Company: 3Com Corp., Marlborough, Mass.  Target audience: CIOs, IT purchasers, consumers  Key Web executive: Karen Mason, Web producer  No. of employees who work on the site: Five Web team members plus an IT support staff  Last major redesign: 2001, with two additional home page redesigns since then, the last one in March 2004.  No. of pages on site: U.S. site has more than 31,000 documents; support site has more than 18,000. Globally, 3Com has approximately 78,000 documents.  Web developer: In-house



Last year, 3Com Web experts noticed that people were popping back and forth to the home page as they navigated the site. That meant one thing, said Karen Mason, the site's producer—that they weren't finding what they wanted.

This lead to a directive: create a site that loaded quickly and incorporated all of its links and menus above the fold. But that was only half the battle. Once inside, users still needed a way to find what they required-even if they couldn't articulate what exactly that was. Mason's team got started by focusing on three major content areas: products and services, support and downloads, and partners.

"We needed to give users one-click access," she said. "We used menus that they could scroll over and see multiple menu layers. We really needed to reduce the overall number of clicks."

This seemingly simple strategy worked. By creating multilevel, mouse-over menus, the company enabled customers to see exactly what the site has to offer in a very short period of time. And if they're at the site to learn more about the many abstract concepts that the company supports-secure converged networks, for example-they can do so by following links into presentations and educational elements, each of which leads right into product pages. 3Com addressed its customers' search conundrum by adding three Configurator tools that help customers find the products that best suit their business problems.

To date, this strategy is working. There's been a marked decrease in the number of repeat visits to the home page, Mason said. They've also increased sales leads significantly because of the Configurator tools, she said.

"Our site is cleaner and less cluttered, especially in the sublevel pages," she said.

Expert 2¢

Chris Nodder: For enterprise customers, 3Com's content is grouped around user tasks such as intrusion prevention or upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet. Each topic links to the relevant products and white papers. For small and midsize businesses, 3Com also offers some g reat content, such as free online courses on everything from networking basics to LAN telephony. Obviously the more educated the customer, the more likely they will be to buy and the more satisfied they'll be with the results, but this goes beyond marketing.

Kate Everett-Thorp: 3Com does a nice job communicating high-end products and service in a clean environment. It's also an excellent example of how b-to-b companies could handle globalization of their digital communications. ... I felt 3Com did a fantastic job handling the task. Each of the local versions has the opportunity to speak directly to their customers without appearing less important than another.

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