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Nature trails and navigation trails

Take twelve separate trail web sites and unify them under a common brand while still maintaining some sense of individuality.

Paul Boag's highlights and lowlights of his project with the UK National Trails website was a refreshing reminder that we are all struggling with the same issues: designing a good user experience means solving political and technical problems.

The scale is a lot larger with, but we also deal with serving individual business unit needs. How to let each brand speak with its special voice, yet still be a part of OneIBM. How to convince them to join the common infrastructure so that we can build the experience that our customers demand. How to merge silos. How to build it all so it works and the technology limitations do not drive the user experience.

It is also a reminder that "all politics are local". For a naive outsider like me, all of the UK trails are one and the same, so why some trails would need their own site is beyond me. I am sure there are very good reasons for a trail to stand on its own; this redesign project probably revealed more festering politics than it solved design problems.

Still, it all looks like a step in the right direction. Good job, Headscape, and thanks for sharing your story.

I also like this story because the whole idea of the national trails is to link separate footpaths and small roads into a system, filling in gaps as needed to make them all fit together. They link-together in the physical world just like I do every day in the virtual world.

Finally, I just could not resist the irony of a site about real-world trails that contains virtual trails.


Hi Keith, as somebody that worked with IBM for over three years on the website (alongside work on other EMEA sites) I can understand the kind of challenges you face. Your problems are complicated further by cultural differences that need to be reflected in the way brands are presented in different regions. Not only do you need to allow the brands themselves room to breath in their own right you also have to allow them to adapt for each region globally. I remember one of the thing that used to frustrate me most as an EMEA designer working for a US company was the fact that I had to apply US design styles to sites which were being viewed by a largely anti-us market.