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May 17, 2005
How To

How Dolby Revamped its Site to Please Multiple Audiences (Consumers vs. B-to-B) Globally: Seven Steps

SUMMARY: On average, your site visitors want to find the information they need in under eight seconds. So, clean, simple design works best to help them find what they want quickly. But, how can you design for many different types of visitors, from consumers to distributors, from dozens of countries all coming to the same home page? Dolby executives revealed behind-the-scenes details on their recent redesign with MarketingSherpa. Discover how the new site appeals to everyone, including territory marketing heads around the globe.
When Dolby planned a site redesign last year, company executives faced a major challenge:

"All the foreign language sites looked different," says Bruce Taylor, Dolby Senior Manager Corporate Web Marketing. "It was important to us to portray brand consistency across the world. We have a brand that's recognized and we wanted it to look the same to most of our audience."

Yet territory marketing managers all had different ideas. The problem was complicated by the fact that the site served profoundly diverse visitors, including:

o licensees such as Sony and Hitachi
o professional sound engineers
o consumers
o investors
o media

How can your site redesign please every possible audience in multiple countries?

Taylor revealed the seven specific steps his team took to create a globally integrated, user-friendly site that all the territory marketing managers were happy to sign off on.

Step #1. Create detailed personas

In order to approach the site from a user point of view, Taylor's team first needed an understanding of the people visiting the site.

His team created over 20 personas: detailed descriptions of imaginary visitors, including a photo, age, and occupation. The team approached the personas based on their assumptions on the level of awareness and interaction different types of users have with the site.

"When consumers are solely interested in Dolby sound in automobiles, the way they might approach the site is different from someone who's a sound engineer," says Taylor.

Taylor then took the personas to his marketing managers for a gut check to be sure they portrayed Dolby's users accurately (and to get the managers' buy-in).

Step #2. Organize based on commonsense segmentation and navigation

After studying the personas, Taylor believed the best way to organize the site was by the three major user sets: end consumers (Dolby In Your Life), licensees and professional sound engineers (For Professionals), and press and investors (About Dolby).

"That segmentation is different from how the company is organized," says Taylor. The word "consumer" at Dolby has traditionally meant licensees as well as end users, so grouping licensees with sound professionals rocked the boat. "It was a particular challenge to get that through our organization," he explains.

Taylor's team designed the site so that each group could reach the same destination through two different links. For example, on the home page, a licensee can get to "Licensing and Trademark" through the For Professionals link or directly from a Licensing and Trademark link farther down the page.

Another key to the successful navigation was using action-oriented language, Taylor says. "We use verbs at the beginning of navigational copy: See Dolby in Your Life, Learn More About Dolby Technology."

Step #3. Designate areas for promotion and branding

Taylor wanted to keep content fresh for users as well as satisfy the needs of his marketing managers. So he designated almost a third of the home page, above the fold, to promotions.

"We spotlight specific content areas and make those readily available to marketing managers both on the home page and on second- and third-level pages," says Taylor.

Taylor also made sure branding elements were strong throughout the site, even on deeper level pages that tend to be more text-heavy.

"As a user gets deeper into content, visual elements become secondary," he says. "To make sure that each page within the site was an accurate reflection of the brand, we kept the color and use of white space consistent throughout, with the logo always in the top left-hand corner."

Step #4. Integrate design closely in global sites

Taylor decided to create design templates that marketing managers in each country were obligated to use.

But because each country's language -- and users -- had different needs, the various marketing managers were concerned that a structured template might not make sense for their market. Taylor took three steps to ensure the change went smoothly:

Tip #1. Make marketing managers part of the process

"The key thing was to communicate and make them part of the design process so there were no surprises. I had to keep really open lines of communication," says Taylor. "When someone can look you in the eye and nod their head, a lot of unspoken communication comes out of that."

Tip #2. Communicate that you understand the different needs of their users

"Make it clear to territory marketing managers that you understand that there are differences in the way Web visitors in Japan and China are using sites, that their territory is different and unique and requires a unique approach," he suggests.

Tip #3. Consider space and layout needs of different languages

"We had to make sure the templates fit into all languages," says Taylor. "For example, the German language would have more letters for the same words, so we had to provide more space for that. We had to provide a layout and design that was open enough for Japanese and Chinese characters to fit properly."

Step #5. Avoid the "What country are you from?" splash page

Taylor chose to have a main English-language site to keep branding consistent, rather than a splash page that listed the various countries. "We wanted people to come to; for it to be the thing they remember. People don't remember anything past the 'dotcom' in the URL, so we wanted the home page address to be really easy."

In addition, he says, Dolby's research suggests that characters or letters of other languages jump out on a page to native speakers of those languages. For example, if a Chinese speaker goes to an English-language site, his eyes will gravitate to the Chinese characters, "because nothing else on the page makes sense," Taylor says.

Step #6. No IP-address-sniffing

Taylor chose not to use address-sniffing -- the ability to track a user's country of origin through their IP address and then serving up content in the appropriate language -- partly because he finds it intrusive and partly because, again, he wanted to be the single main page for the company.

Step #7. Usability study to prove the hypothesis

Because there had been a great deal of pushback internally that licensing needed its own section -- and because Taylor knows better than to assume he's always right -- he conducted a usability study before the launch.

"We brought in licensees and asked how they would get info on licensing at It turned out that every single licensee was able to find the content quickly. We had developed two separate paths to the information on the site, and we saw pretty much a 50/50 split on how they navigated."

Was the study enough to convince corporate naysayers? Of course, says Taylor. "We're an engineering organization. Anytime you have data to support what you're trying to accomplish, that's all you need."

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