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Case Study: Visualizing IBM's Web Integrator Initiative

I was the project director of the Answerthink team that helped IBM create the wireless edition of its Web Integrator Initiative site. In its manifesto, the Initiative states that it aims "to empower the dynamic companies on the bleeding edge." This group partners with Web builders. Its target audience of consultants and integrators is comprised of Web shops, Web Integrators, I-Builders, and Internet professional services firms.

"IBM had just developed the design strategy for the Web site. Working with Web firms that clearly have an appetite for emerging technologies, we felt it was critical for our team to dip our organizational toe into the water when it comes to wireless," says J.P. Frenza, worldwide marketing manager for IBM's Web Integrator Initiative. "While there is certainly no shortage of hype on the possibilities that wireless offers, we felt the Web-to-wireless option was the quickest way to get timely and useful data into the hands of the our partners."

My Answerthink group's first step was to work with IBM to determine what information and functionality an individual partner would find useful on a phone, a Palm, or an IBM WorkPad. By adding mobility and context to the existing user-experience architecture approach, the designers homed in on simple functionality for Phase One, focusing primarily on appearance, navigation, and ease-of-use.

We kept the snappy, witty tone of the copy, while borrowing design elements from the Web site with restraint, to maintain a consistent appearance without adding unnecessary size to the Web Clipping application or PQA.

The navigation was kept to a minimum, providing easy access to the functions deemed useful to a mobile user: Obtain information on the initiative, partner events, key contact information, and condensed partner news. Users can also subscribe to e-Clips, the Web Integrator newsletter, right from their Palms. Innovative navigation bars and pull-down menus provide compact, easy access to different sections of the content without using up too much screen real estate.

Figure 4 shows the Wireless Edition home page, with its light use of graphics, quick navigation to key information, and the ability to subscribe to the Web Integrator from the Palm.

We defined functionality specifically for each device. For the Palm OS, users could add addresses directly to Palm Contacts, and event information to the Palm calendar by pressing a command button. In the Web phone version, the phone number of a selected contact can be dialed by pressing īCall.'

The existing content-management systems at IBM were modified to manage wireless pages, which are culled specifically from the Web-site content. Automated content transformation could have been used, but wasn't necessary for Phase One, given the limited site content and functionality. Later phases of the wireless edition may include more functionality, such as alerts, technical support, personalization, and access to partner databases. The Wireless Edition provides partners with a taste of what's to come, and helps IBM reach out to partners at the bleeding edge.

For more information, and to download the PQA, see www.ibm.com/software/webintegrators. —MH