The Palo Alto Networks website team recently launched a new site design that markedly improves PaloAltoNetworks.com’s usability. It also confidently shows they are fast movers when it comes to streamlining their web presence and providing visitors with more elegant, and more importantly useful, navigational features.

The redesigning of PaloAltoNetworks.com’s global navigation functionality across the majority of the site is immediately evident. Nearly every aspect of marketing – their product portfolio, services, and corporate offerings – is more targeted and on-point than their previous, somewhat non-standard, design choices.

Not only does this ease the burden on their visitors (fewer clickies = happier people), but it also gives their overall identity and brand a much-needed dose of modernization.

While a few issues still remain, with events being the main antagonist (again), overall PaloAltoNetworks.com is starting off on new footing that will pay big dividends going forward. Here’s why.

Going Dark (In a Good Way)

Before & After

The most immediate and noticeable change is that PaloAltoNetworks.com has joined the dark side (kindly excuse the Star Wars joke. I’m obligated to include at least one Sci-Fi related joke per post in order to maintain “geek-cred”). Not only does this dramatically highlight on-page content, but it is far more visually appealing than their previous home page. Now visitors can focus on viewing highlighted content rather than struggle to gain a sense of “visual footing” in a sea of white boxes.

The change-over to dark seems, at least for the time being, to be limited to the PaloAltoNetworks.com home page. Secondary zones, such as product landing pages, services, and corporate content areas, maintain a much lighter tone that compliments the darker introduction, rather than clash with it.

Overall, the combined design changes give PaloAltoNetworks.com a more modern look and feel that comes together well.

PaloAltoNetworks.com has presented itself with a new makeover, that much is evident. But let’s see what is going on under the hood, since without function, form can be meaningless.

Starting at the Top

The most functional change made to PaloAltoNetworks.com is its global navigation menu. Gone are the days of spelunking endlessly through a seemingly never-ending series of collapsible menu choices.

While the previous menu was, initially, a rather novel and innovative approach to presenting navigational choices, it soon became evident that it put too much burden on visitors to “do the digging” to get to information.

Now, PaloAltoNetworks.com offers a compact, targeted, and modern flyout menu that highlights their growing portfolio in rather brilliant fashion.

Before
After

The new menu design is concise and easy to read and digest. More importantly, it instantly presents more portfolio choices for visitors to choose from rather than have them endlessly hunting and pecking through a trail of collapsible boxes.

This is especially evident in areas where they introduce their various product lines:

No context and no footing
Clear path with clear nomenclature

Overall, the new menu structure is very streamlined and on-point. Additionally, the overall timing of the menu functions is better since visitors no longer need to wait for things to expand. The choices are just…there, ready to click. That makes a world of difference regarding overall usability, especially when shopping across multiple product lines and services offerings.

The Non-Events

One issue that PaloAltoNetworks.com has always stumbled over is the presentation of events. While they have made some strides in addressing this issue, there is still much work to be done.

PaloAltoNetworks.com is dedicating quite of bit of Events landing page real estate to highlighting a featured event, which is a slight swing from the norm that I found intriguing. While the initial introduction to the event was promising, I found the actual event page somewhat lacking.

It certainly looks engaging at first glance and aligns quite nicely to PaloAltoNetworks.com’s slow transition to darker page designs. It also has a modern feel and workable layout. But underneath the beauty resides some fairly fundamental problems.

For example, the speaker carousel is a bit deceptive. If the visitor’s mouse happens to move across the pictures, as feels natural given their circular, targeted nature, they become even more highlighted. But they do not actually link to anything, like to the featured speaker’s biographies:

The agenda block poses a similar problem. Given how parts of the content are highlighted, I, again, thought the site was linking me to demos, case studies, and a “live, expert Q&A” but apparently they are simply tools that will be used at the event.

So, while the design and presentation of the highlighted event is markedly improved, it seems as though the same fundamental problem still exists. The site doesn’t offer many take-aways for a potential attendee to digest – which is an inherent problem in hosting event information “in-house.”

The general rule of thumb is you want to keep your visitors interested and engaged on your page, rather than trusting some third-party player to do the heavy lifting for you. However, that means you need to provide them with all the information that is available for that event.

Standard events pages are also thin. Usually just an overview is presented, most often in bulleted format:

One notable change, however, is that event registration is now handled on PaloAltoNetworks.com instead of linking visitors away to some other player. Also, the incorporation of Google maps is also coming into play – and that is a good thing.

Hopefully PaloAltoNetworks.com will continue incorporating more content in-house as it engages the people interested in attending their events, rather than pushing them away to third-party sites. Bounce rates are already tricky enough to handle, so I see no value in making them even more of an issue.

Final Thoughts

PaloAltoNetworks.com has taken on a brand-new look and some of the changes are more than just skin deep, making impressive and (hopefully) lasting changes to their navigational structure.

By streamlining the process of directing their visitors across their web presence, PaloAltoNetworks.com also benefits from the additional focus brought to their various product and services portfolios.

With some tweaks – namely, maintaining those navigational changes consistently across all top levels zone pages – and adding to their growing events presentations, PaloAltoNetworks.com will position itself for a much more streamlined, usable, and enjoyable web presence.

And I look forward to the day when the events from PaloAltoNetworks.com become a non-event…

Category: Case Study

Class: Website Launch

Websites Profiled: paloaltonetworks.com

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