UPS :  Confusing consignment

Mixed messages result from a section that isn't.

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The feature

UPS, US-based global logistics company, mishandles the packaging of an annual report within its website.

UPS maintains a standalone Corporate Responsibility website in which the seventh and final heading in its primary navigation is Sustainability. The landing page associated with it introduces the company’s current (2012) Sustainability Report and has a five-heading left-hand menu for high-level navigation of the report. There are no deeper levels of navigation within the menu and no customised related links in the right-hand column, unlike in other main sections.

The landing pages reached from the left menu follow the format of the title page, with a graphic illustration in the central content panel above a short summary. Each illustration has a ‘Download PDF’ link at bottom right and the word ‘More’ picked out in a yellow circle alongside a headline; for example, ‘(More) data to prove sustainability success’. Clicking anywhere on the illustration launches a PDF of the associated section of the report.

The takeaway

UPS has taken the decision to produce only a PDF version of its Sustainability Report for its website, and one that is based on a static print layout. Not of itself unusual, though the no-frills low-tech presentation is as unfashionably conservative as the company’s branding. But dressing it up as a fully paid-up section of the Corporate Responsibility website is a mistake, sowing the ground for disorientation and confusion. In all respects it is a standalone presentation, sitting apart from and not directly connected (except in subject matter) with any other section – it provides no linking to other sections and is not cross-referenced within them.

One way in which the dressing up may accentuate confusion is that it reinforces the ingrained expectation that clicking the word ‘more’ in an illustration will launch a web page, especially when a ‘download PDF’ link appears to be offered separately. UPS has been blind-sided to the possibility by the copywriting flourish of echoing the title of the report, ‘More of What Matters’. Another sign, perhaps, of an inability to think across mediums but one that could have been alleviated by restricting the ‘clickability’ of the illustration to the download link.
First published 19 November, 2013
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