General Electric : A home page metaphor

GE's home page tries hard to reflect the complexity of the organization with an intriguing multimedia display.

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The feature

General Electric's home page loads with an overlay panel saying 'Welcome to the GE Store, a marketplace built on imagination. Come mix and match the latest technology and research to see how we build, power, move and cure the world'. This fades to reveal a patchwork of monochrome images. Mousing over any of these turns two or three at a time into a text panel, with the same tag line holding them together - for example panels headed Lighting, Power & Water, and Software are all held together by the line 'Industrial Internet'.

Clicking the image, all but those that have turned to text 'fold' away and the ones that are highlighted merge into one, and transform into a scrolling multimedia display. For example the Industrial Internet display has a set of panels showing how the technology is used in planes and trains using a mix of photos, videos and text. Links at the bottom lead to more across the site. 

Below the patchwork is a paragraph headed About GE. It begins 'GE imagines things that others don't, builds things that others can't...'

The takeaway

Every company has a challenge in knowing what to put on its home page, arguably the most valuable square foot of real estate it owns. As a giant conglomerate, GE has more of a challenge than most because it cannot easily summarise what it does. The ‘About Us’ paragraph continues a history of using abstraction rather than fact – it probably has little choice.

But the patchwork is interesting because it attempts to turn its diversity into a strength, using slick graphics to show how its different activities (eg lighting, power & water, software) all intersect under the heading Industrial Internet and showing us examples. GE is in effect using a graphical device as a metaphor for its own structure.

Is it too clever for its own good? Well, the opening ‘Welcome to the GE store ..’ text is just confusing: a metaphor too far. But that apart it checks the boxes we think are important for an effective home page. It is an effective and intriguing billboard, and it is a powerful ‘magazine front cover’ – pulling visitors first into the multimedia story, then into the site. It is also highly original – well on brand for General Electric.
First published 09 September, 2015
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