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The decade of disco

The eighties saw the birth of the corporate era, a time when the idea of ďa billion dollarsĒ became something your average person could imagine existed, and a pocket of history within which greed wasnít a bad word. It was also the decade that saw some of todayís largest and most influential companies establish themselves as major players in the corporate world. And of course, it is as a decade fundamentally responsible for some of the worst fashion, hairstyles and music in modern history.

nike.com

Nike, which originally began as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964, got really big in the eighties, and as such was one of the decadeís icons. In 1981 they actually took on the name Nike, in 1984 they signed Michael Jordan to an endorsement contract, and it was in 1986 that corporate revenues first exceeded $1 billion.

Despite the fact that Nike deals primarily in sports clothing and equipment, their target audience covers a huge range of people, which is why their website is actually made up of literally hundreds of mini-sites that appeal directly to each specific market. Nike Basketball appeals to the hip-hop culture that surrounds basketball; Nike Football appeals to the Brazilian culture that surrounds soccer; Nike Lab appeals toÖ actually, I have no idea what Nike Lab appeals to, or does, but I like the ads.

Nikeís website creates worlds around their products. You can track your workout progress online, customize your next pair of shoes and join online communities of fellow runners, ballers, skaters and golfers. Each individual mini-site gives its visitor a reason to be glad they came, whether itís because of the interactive multimedia environments or the additional features available.

This site seems to have huge goals, and also seems to reach them. OK, itís slow to load and navigation is not always intuitive, but everything is designed to make you feel great about yourself and about the product, and in most cases, it succeeds. As a marketing tool, this website is quite simply amazing.

microsoft.com

Another icon of the 1980ís, Microsoft seemed to be more about taking over the world than impressing it, and to most people, was fairly successful at doing just that. Their website started with one of the most horrible homepages of all time (see it here), and after numerous updates and rebuilds, has reached something resembling a pretty good site.

I feel a little sorry for the developers of the Microsoft website sometimes. The sheer volume of information they have to include is mind-boggling, and despite there being only two main reasons for going to the site (to find out more about a new product, or to find out why your current product isnít working), the potential audience for their site seems to include Ďalmostí (with a nod to the Mac users out there) the entire developed world.

So how does one of the largest corporations in the world present themselves online? Well, to be honest, they seem to follow a fairly standard corporate website structure, and since the siteís latest update midway through last year, it hasnít been a bad place to be. I set myself two tasks to see how easy it was to find what I wanted on the site: finding out about a highly technical feature of the new Windowís Vista operating system and then finding enough information to help me decide which version of Vista Iíll need when I upgrade. I found the information in both cases without any problems.

The reason this site now works is because the developers have thought about the kinds of questions people want answered and have built the site in a way that directs them to those answers. Also, the depth of the site seems to have been reduced somewhat. On the old site, there were levels and levels you had to go through to find what you wanted, whereas on the new site, it seems like once youíve decided what product area you need, thereís a wealth of information within only a few clicks.

Sure, finding support information can still take way too long, and the new interface operates slightly slower than I would consider ideal, but considering the task at hand, Iím quite impressed with the new Microsoft website.

Summary

Despite their shortfalls and the fact that they have marketing budgets higher than the GDP of some countries, we can learn something from these sites. In Nikeís case, they know each specific target audience that will visit their site, and do everything to impress them and keep them coming back. In Microsoftís case, the user defines the way they navigate the site, not being forced to follow any one path to the information they seek. Both sites have a clear purpose and present their users with valuable information and useful features.

I tried everything I could to get more eighties words into this article, but itís been almost twenty years since I said Ďtubularí and I just donít have it in me any more.

Till next time, dudes.

Jason Harper
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Jason Harper

Jason Harper

Run Web Design is a Geelong based company committed to providing businesses with a complete, professional web site development service.

With services covering all aspects of web site development, including website design and construction, search engine optimisation, domain registration and web hosting, and online advertising advice, Run Web Design is able to provide clients with a web site that works for their business.

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Marathon is Run Web Design's webzine containing information and articles on Website, Internet and Business related topics. Also included are some websites from around the world that are making some noise.

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