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Mini-sites: like reader's digest for websites!

I recently had a somewhat crazy idea to solve a common problem.  It's currently half-baked, and it's related to a project I might be working on, so your comments and thoughts are appreciated.  

 

Here's the problem: big organizations have a ton of content that needs to go *somewhere* on their website, and often, the really important stuff gets obscured.  It's uncomfortable to visit a site like http://hawaii.edu/ and try and find something, and we're all being classically conditioned to avoid them.

 

Here's the remedy I'm mulling over: preface the full site with a smaller site, which works for 80% of visitors and has 20% of the content.  The mini site would just look like a tiny website with very little content, but for one small element just above or below the navbar that communicates something to the effect of "This is our mini-site.  If it doesn't have what you're looking for, try the full site."  This element would be visually composed of a color that contrasts with the rest of the mini-site, which would form a dominant color of the full site.  Other links that lead from the mini site to the full site will also make use of that color.  Maybe an icon of some sort as well.

 

Please chime in with any random thoughts, but I also have two specific questions for you, dear reader: Have you ever seen a site like this?  Can you come up with compelling and interesting names for the concepts "full site" and "mini site"?

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Comment by Brian on February 20, 2011 at 10:58pm

Somewhat related, I was trying to figure out how to pair my bluetooth hands-free. I'd reset my phone and.. naturally the directions had been tossed immediately along with the bloated packaging.

 

So.. off to google. Anyway, naturally I did this.. from my phone - which if you were selling such a product is probably a reasonable assumption. Anyway, google got me to Jabra's site.. first hit.. it took me to some very pretty site which had lots of pictures and navigation and...

 

... Totally sucked on a handheld device. All I wanted to know was how to pair it! Terrified by that I went back and found an ehow link which gave clear instructions.

 

Thinking this over I realized a similar conclusion - that navigation for sites is kinda irrelevant now with deep linking. Especially for "FAQ" type of information. I suppose it depends on your knowledge finding paradigm but to me the directory paradigm is pretty dead in favour of search (with some exceptions).

 

Anyway I don't necessarily agree that a special "mini site" is required, but I think it's really a lesson that you want to target mobile heavily and unclutter your sites. Rethink "navigation" as a required heavy element and focus more on the deeper issue of discoverability. Forget the idea of pages and concentration on morsels of information that can be easily digested and serve some clear purpose.

Comment by Cameron Souza on February 13, 2011 at 5:11am
I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. I think this would be a valuable feature for a web CMS.
Comment by James Pakele on February 4, 2011 at 7:05am

Micro sites, sounds like a great idea, especially for sites targeting older people.  I guess you'd need to figure out what information works for the 80%.  However, I guess on a site that's been up for a while you'd be able to figure that out fairly easily. 

 

Could start a trend.

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