Integrating Third Party Web Sites: Don't Forget the Template!

A common issue I come across in my work is the effective integration of third party services with the overall web presenece for an organization. And I don’t just mean the login system, although that’s been a hobby horse of mine for some time.

I mean that the visual and navigation experience of moving from the main site to a hosted service is often jarring and off putting. If your audience includes folks who are still a bit skittish online, you’ll lose them if they are not positive that the hosted site is actually yours. We can thank the phishing scammers for that.

What is a third party site? It is one that an organization has contracted with to provide a specific service, content or features that they either cannot or do not wish to develop on their main site. Job boards, search engines, discussion forums, social networking tools and blogs are all examples of these kinds of services.

The solution is to make the ability to use your overall look and feel, including navigation system, on the hosted site as a primary selection criteria. Many managers don’t explore this fully and end up with a service that has their logo on it but otherwise bears no resemblance to the main site. Exploring this fully during selection and contract negotiations will prevent a lot of user pain down the road.

And to you service providers out there, making it insanely easy to support an organization’s overall look and feel would be a good way to stand out from your competitors.

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