IBM has a mammoth taxonomy of products, services, and solutions. Providing easy user access to nodes within this taxonomy is always a challenge. Until recently, the two primary ways we did this were mega-menus and search. These work OK, but neither is ideal for reasons I outlined in my previous column, “Two Common Myths of Web Design and Information Architecture.” Megamenu navigation is overwhelming, and search is a constant battle that depends on content best practices.
We are making progress with content best practices for search. But for some parts of our content inventory, we would prefer an easier way of helping users find content. An example is product pages, which by their very nature are not content-rich. So they do not tend to rank well in our search results except for queries that use the exact product name. But what if users don’t yet know those product names? Users looking for IBM products who don’t know the range and breath of our offerings often don’t find what their looking for.
Enter our new Software Product Finder application (see Figure 3). The faceted browse application enables the user to browse by business need or product category. They can also search for products with the help of a type-ahead function similar to the one Google uses. Or they can just browse alphabetically.
Figure 3 Opening screen of the product finder application
If they browse by product category (see Figure 4), they get a clear top-level taxonomy of products. Mousing over product categories gives users help windows to define the categories.
Figure 4 Product Finder after a user selects “Find IBM Software by Product Category.”
Imagine how much easier it would be for Googlebot to index content within our massive inventory if it could index and follow all the links within the Product Finder. What might look like a maze to it now would be clearly ordered in an alphabetical lista list that was developed using the latest keyword research. This would not only help IBM, but it would help Google by enabling it to surface more relevant IBM content to its users.