BAE Systems : Holding the front page

A shot at recasting a group site as a publication is off target.

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The feature

BAE Systems, UK-based armaments manufacturer, makes a self-conscious attempt to promote its corporate and country sites as publications.

BAE System’s global home page is filled on launch with a self-refreshing image panel that displays three content highlights in sequence. A lozenge-shaped button at top right carries the heading ‘Inside this edition’ followed by a down-pointing chevron. On click, the page scrolls automatically to reveal a graphic grid of highlight boxes under the general title of ‘Global Edition’ and with headlines such as ‘Cyber security’ and ‘Work commences on River Class contract’. A new lozenge appears at top right with the heading ‘The cover stories’ alongside an up-pointing chevron. In both configurations, the page has a news ticker anchored to the bottom edge, with an expansion button that reveals 10 linked headlines on click. The ‘stories’ throughout the page link to content within the site, most often in the News & Feature section. The same template and page structure are used for country sites, where the story selection is localised and re-titled ‘[Country] Edition’.

The top of the page has a conventional set of primary navigation headings and search field that is lost when the page scrolls down. A separate set of customised links is presented in a rich footer that is hidden by default but revealed on click from a Explore BAE Systems link also anchored to the bottom of the page.

The takeaway

One of the more intriguing questions triggered by BAE System’s global and country ‘editions’ of its website is whether or not it is carrying Coca-Cola’s bold recasting of the corporate site as a magazine into the realm of pure business-to-business companies and truly treating it as a publication.

The somewhat self-conscious use of magazine terminology – ‘cover stories’, ‘Inside this edition’ – certainly creates an expectation on first impression. But a prolonged look suggests that the ‘redesign’ is no more than cover-deep, giving a fresh and ‘on trend’ look to a conventional corporate production. Primary navigation is present and of regular configuration; the mix of ‘stories’ covers the usual range of mostly press-office-generated news and features, which also seem not to have been recast for a more general audience; and beyond the home/front page is a standard group site structure. That may be no bad thing as a means for serving BAE System’s core audiences, but even the home page is not really doing anything much out of the ordinary – take away the publication references and the production seems very much like ‘emperor’s new clothes’ as far as an innovative approach to the site is concerned.
First published 27 March, 2014
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