It’s exciting to see the world of possibilities open up for B2B websites. In the past, B2B sites have often been “brochure-ware,” with predictable, one-size-fits-all content presented in a static drill-down hierarchy. One had to look at consumer sites, like amazon.com to understand the concept of a “user-driven” experience. Since website users were often transacting business, consumer sites innovated new ways to capture and keep their audiences, like amazon.com did with personalization.
B2B Websites Grow Up
Happily, B2B websites have entered a new phase of greater audience sophistication, and with it comes higher expectations on web designers and marketers to create meaningful interactive experiences to which even a consumer audience would respond.
Harvard Business Review
Take a look at the Harvard Business Review website, www.hbr.org. Ignoring for a moment the busyness of the graphic design, this venerable publication has created a content-driven experience that is constantly changing in ways that will encourage people to return often.
For example, they’ve adopted the idea of serving up content by popularity so that visitors know what peers value. Their “Most Read/Most Commented” area encourages and perpetuates interactivity.
Siemens is another B2B site doing a good job of building an online brand, not just selling stuff; www.siemens.com is an impressively simple, spare experience for such a large, complex company.
They present a collection of high production value videos that show how seamlessly Siemens is integrated into people’s lives. Not only are these videos captivating, each is tagged with social bookmarks enabling one to comment on Twitter or Facebook, and see who else has commented.
IDEO, a product design and innovation company, uses their B2B website as a canvas for experimentation, inviting visitors to see not only their high ticket work, but the process of experimentation — not always the successful kind — that precedes their polished work.
For example, they’ve created a separate microsite, “IDEO Labs” in order to share the often-messy process of innovation and creative thinking. IDEO Labs maintains a blog-like format that encourages commenting.
B2B Websites are Becoming Content-driven
What these evolving B2B websites have in common is that they are content-driven experiences, with content that delivers on both a corporate/informational and a personal/emotional level, the latter of which is relatively new territory for B2B. I’ll be talking more about usability in B2B websites in future posts.
Have you seen any great B2B websites lately?