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The Grand Tour

Visitors have different ways of exploring a new community. Some like to jump in feet first and start exploring on their own. You can accommodate these “explorer” types by providing a site map and search box in your Visitors Center (as the eBay and iVillage visitor areas do).

Others will enjoy a guided tour as a quick and easy way to get an overview of the community. A tour is another great branding opportunity, so if you create one, make sure that the contents, organization, and look leave a strong impression. Like most tours, the tour at Parent Soup consists of a series of Web pages (see Figure 7). The graphics are simple and fun; the information is presented in manageable chunks; and it’s always clear what to do next. The visitor is left with the impression that Parent Soup is a friendly, accessible, and helpful place.

This approach gives you the widest accessibility, which is important if your visitors might not have the latest and greatest technology. However, if you’re addressing a more sophisticated audience--Web professionals, say, or hardcore gamers--you can create a more dynamic tour using a technology like Macromedia Flash (www.macromedia.com/software/flash/). WebMD, for example, offered an animated Flash tour (see Figure 8) that was fun, engaging, and appropriate for the wired doctors that WebMD is targeting.

TIP >  If you do create an enhanced tour, it’s best to also offer the simpler alternative, so that no one is left out.

Figure 7

Parent Soup’s simple HTML-based tour offers a good overview of the site, using simple graphics and casual language to communicate a friendly, down-to-earth feeling that’s consistent with the Parent Soup brand.

Figure 8

WebMD, geared toward health care professionals, used to offer a Flash-based tour that took visitors through the interface and explained the system.

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