Navigation, Ads, Site stats and custom messages for co-branded sites

September 11, 2006

In this post, I will explore how to handle Navigation, ads etc for co-branded sites. Next post will be a concluding post in this series on how content management (WCMS) delivery systems fare in this respect (After all, their job is content re-positioning).

Navigation: It is recommended that such application keep the navigation at a single place – i.e. have only left navigation or have only top navigation – left is preferable, as the top navigation is usually used for global navigation. This primary or Top navigation should be controlled by the customer or the brand. Again for having this, the options are the same as that for logo – i.e. having this site within an iFrame, or putting the navigation bar within an iFrame, or doing a server side Portlet like included from a navigation bar hosted at the customer’s web server, or giving an option to upload the HTML for the navigation. Use the same consideration as the logo on deciding which one to go for.

Use only Left navigation or only top navigation , not both

Within the application, the navigation needs to be relative, so that it is able to work with any brand.

Many times, the brands decide to promote certain sections of the application. For doing so, they will require capabilities to Deep link into the content. It is always easier to Deep link using “GET” links. so

– Consider if the application navigation could be done using GET links.

– Consider providing equivalent of “permalinks”

Handling Ads and site-stat tags:

The advertisements tends to be at specific placeholders. These placeholders are easy to manage by template customization, or by pre-defining the same. The advertisements may be targeted based on data entered in the form. For this it is essential to define a tag substitution language for the templates. For example to achieve something like myadserver.com/pref?application=HotelFinder&destination=Egypt

you can give a language like

myadserver.com/pref?application=$pagename&destination=$destination

similarly, the site stat tags also tend to be HTML snippets or Javascripts – but they could be present either in the Header, body,  beginning of Form tag, or at the end of the page.

It is essential to provide placeholders at visible as well as invisible portions of the page and a tag based substitution either for the HTML/Javascript OR the template. It is also essential to publish which placeholders are “across the site” and which placeholders are only for the page. Typically Headers and end of page should have both Global and page specific placeholders, while within the body, only page specific placeholders need to be present.

Allow Tag substitution in templates, or uploaded HTML to embed.

Custom messages:

It is reasonable to expect a customer to ask for rewriting Error messages. They might want to give phone numbers or email contacts in case user get specific errors – Like- for no flights found they might want to see, “No Chartered flights? choose from scheduled flights at our sister site ebookers.com”. So how do we solve this ? The implementations I have seen are very close to internationlization, but two step ones. Application reports error codes, the UI layer replaces it with error messages. Now these error messages are defaulted by Locale, but there is a second level parse for customer specific messages.

We need to allow parameterised tags in the messages as well. 

Another approach could be to add customer id in the locale and replicate everything, not just exceptions.

It is slightly less reasonable, but possible for customers to ask for custom labels.

Labels are handled in two ways – either the same way as you internationalise – using resource bundles, or by providing custom templates. So here again, we have to consider which way to go. I would recommend a separate template if custom labels were required.

See other posts in this series : Branding, Branding, custom URL, and the first post on co-branding white labeling.

The concluding post will talk about how and whether content management systems help.

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