HP revamps its Web sites

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has finished a major redesign of its public HP.com and its private customer extranet, the first time in about 18 months that such an effort hasn't focused on integrating the HP and Compaq Web properties, an HP executive said this week.

HP typically revamps these two Web sites twice a year. When work began on these latest redesigns, the integration between the HP and Compaq Web sites had been almost completed, so HP was able to put most of its effort into enhancing the sites' usability, said Stephanie Acker-Moy, HP's vice president of Internet and marketing services.

"With these redesigns, we were able to build on top of the consolidation (of HP and Compaq sites) and focus on enhancing the customer experience, to make it easier to do business with HP," she said. HP completed its Compaq acquisition in May 2002.

In the third quarter of 2002, HP.com ranked as the most effective among the public Web sites of 20 major IT vendors based on the evaluation of siteIQ, a research and consulting firm that updates this ranking every quarter. But the difficulties of integrating HP.com with Compaq.com sent it tumbling down to fourth place in the first quarter of 2003 rankings, said Marty Gruhn, program director and general manager of the siteIQ Website Best Practices Group.

"It's a testament to how much work there is when you merge two giant corporations and then have to merge their online presences. It's a Herculean effort and it's taken HP about 18 months to turn that ship around," Gruhn said.

HP regained the top spot in the siteIQ rankings in the first quarter of this year, unseating IBM's IBM.com, she said. "That tells you the kind of work HP has done on that site," she said.

Meanwhile, Gruhn also had words of praise for HP's extranet, saying the improvements in personalization are significant. "The stronger personalization capabilities let users define their interests and roles and, based on that, receive relevant information," she said. Sun Microsystems Inc.'s extranet has traditionally had the strongest personalization capabilities, but HP's extranet is catching up, she said. "HP has done a great job of moving the ball down the field there," Gruhn said.

Thus, this time around, HP focused on improving the sites' content, their design and navigation and their purchasing capabilities. Another focus area was to make the look-and-feel of all country-specific Web sites more uniform, to provide a more consistent experience globally across HP Web sites, she said.

"HP is a very large organization and we're trying to simplify the organization for our customers," Acker-Moy said. "Our overall goal was to drive stronger relationships with our customers and to focus on the ease of doing business to win the customer war by making it easier for customers to identify and purchase the right technologies for their business needs."

HP's Web sites have increased in business importance exponentially over the past five years, she said. "Increasingly around the world, customers prefer to do business with us over the Web. It's the way they are choosing to interact with us," she said. "It also lets us drive operating effectiveness, because it's easier for us to do business with customers over the Web as well."

Some of the enhancements made to the HP.com public Web site in this last redesign round include:

-- A searchable enterprise library with over 4,000 white papers, case studies, literature and articles;

-- an improved search function that, for example, recognizes product model numbers and stock keeping units and returns product information accordingly,

-- and an improved online chat tool for customers to communicate with HP sales representatives in real time.

Some of the enhancements to the extranet, called HP.com Business to Business, include:

-- Significantly more product content to support buying decisions, including expanded product descriptions, white papers and images;

-- a redesign that makes the site more consistent with the public HP.com Web site,

-- and an increased ability for customers to tailor the Web site content to their particular needs.

The improvements to the public HP.com Web site were introduced progressively over the past few months culminating this week, because of its massive size: 69 country sites in 35 languages visited by over 4.5 million unique users per week. Meanwhile, because it is smaller in size, the redesigned HP.com Business to Business extranet was launched all at once on Monday, Acker-Moy said.

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