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Company: IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.  Target audience: Business and technology decision-makers and influencers  Key Web executive: Lee Dierdorff, VP-global Web strategy and enablement  No. of employees who work on the site:  400   Last major redesign: November 2004  No. of pages on site: More than 3 million  Web developer: In-house visitors enter the site through one of 84 different local country pages. These visitors have 65 unique roles in their respective companies. They come to the site seeking an answer to help them achieve one or more of 74 different goals. Once at, they can search for a type of product and drill down into sub-brand areas. They can also enter with a task in mind-learning or shopping, for example. The real excitement, said Lee Dierdorff, VP-global Web strategy and enablement, is the site's behind-the-scenes use of search.

"If you click `Learn About' and select a part to learn about-say software-you then get a page that lets you pick the particular software and operating system," he said. "We essentially develop a search behind the scenes and fire off a search across the entire domain." The search results will include the most relevant Web pages from all IBM brands and business units, including information on financing and training available, as appropriate to the search request.

"By using targeted content and search behind the scenes, we are essentially helping the client achieve the objective without needing to know what brand they are looking for within IBM," Dierdorff said.

Because some visitors might not be up to date on current IBM news and branding, the company uses its "hero" spot-a banner that stretches across the page near the top of the site-to deliver messages around common themes. This is usually a new innovation or company attribute, although multiple brands will have content links coming off the spot, Dierdorff said. Ad campaign elements and special offers are highlighted at the very bottom. Large customers-there are as many as 5,000-get their own customized versions of the site.

 Expert 2¢

Jakob Nielsen: The site has deep information, as required by these highly complex IT products. And yet, as you move around the huge number of pages, the page design stays consistent, with a standardized navigation system encompassing global options, a local menu, cross-references to related links and nice breadcrumbs that make it easy to move to a higher level of the site. Even though it looks easy, it takes a lot of work to make the various divisions of a huge company comply with such design standards, but it’s required in order to present one face to the customer. Kate Everett-Thorp: IBM keeps it simple; what else would a CTO, CIO or engineer want from its potential solutions provider? Not a bunch of fancy flash that makes them wait, that’s for sure. IBM does a wonderful job elegantly communicating their expansive services, software and hardware offerings in an easy, clean, user-friendly format.

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