The concept is simple: Know your customers, and build your website around them. But what if your customers come from all corners of the world, including auto designers and heart surgeons? How do you meet their diverse needs? W.L. Gore had just the answer.
The solution was a five-step methodology—discovery, insight, alignment, blueprint, and build—says Michael Petillo, who led the 15-month website redesign project at Gore. Launched earlier this year, the new site (www.gore.com) features thousands of Web pages and 500,000 words in four languages, promising to reach 80 percent of Gore's global visitors. "And the website can be built out and scaled," Petillo says. More than 40 percent of Gore's customers come from outside the U.S. The company plans to soon add regional pages for visitors from Italy, France, and Spain.
In October 2003, Petillo and his dozen-member e-business team began conducting interviews with Gore's associates around the world. From their comments, Petillo and his team built 30 user profiles and concluded that Gore needed "a Web presence for the parts of the world that do not speak English."
"There are cases where Korean companies were afraid to contact Gore Korea because they saw only English on the website and thought all communication would be in English," H.K. Song of Gore Korea told Petillo. Today, all pages on the Gore website feature a drop-down menu that can translate the text to German, Korean, and Chinese.
Petillo and his team also gave the Gore site "one voice." Whether a customer is in the pump packing page or the filter bag page, he'll see that both pages "share the same look and feel," Petillo explains. Visitors can also browse Gore's products by clicking on an industry header, such as aerospace or chemical processing, if they wish not to conduct a product search. Petillo notes, "We're a product company so we've got to show our products. But we also have presence in a number of industries. We want to show what we did."
Following discoveries and insights, Petillo and his team built an information architecture that would become the backbone of the Gore website. They also built a roadmap—or a global alignment—that guided everyone at Gore on how to manage the changes. Petillo calls this alignment effort "the most critical," adding that "without a road map the company won't know where it's going."
Blueprint and Build
The new Gore website is not only a source of product information but also a configuration tool that allows visitors to get quotes and place customized orders.
A former e-business guru at the British oil giant BP, Petillo concedes that there's no "holy grail" in website design. "I think there are some best practices in terms of where your logo goes only because people are used to it," he says. "In terms of tailoring your content, it should be driven by your business and what your customers want."
Reach Wai Li at firstname.lastname@example.org.