Underwriters Laboratories Overhauls Its Web Presence

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), with U.S. offices in Northbrook, Ill., is an independent product safety testing and certification organization with a brand name that’s synonymous with public safety. To extend its commitment to excellence out to the digital space, UL needed a more unified global online presence that better reflected its brand and growing business offerings, made finding relevant content easier for online audiences worldwide and could be readily managed by an internal team.

UL had to evaluate how its global operating units presented themselves on the Web, how internal constituents managed and published content, and, most important, what the overall online experience was like for visitors. Pete Moutvic, UL’s global director of technology advancement and innovation, discusses the details of the organization’s online overhaul.

Since its founding in 1894, Underwriters Laboratories has been investing in research and investigation to promote product safety certification for protected living and working environments. Consumers come face to face with the UL mark many times a day. It is on their digital cameras, laptops and MP3 players, and it annually graces approximately 21 billion products worldwide.

Our service providers and operating units span 64 facilities worldwide, with customers in 98 countries. In 2008, the UL organization reached more than 1 billion consumers in North America, Asia and Europe with its safety messages.

Successfully accommodating our growing global customer base required a new digital strategy that included enhanced communication and interaction capabilities to better serve our customers and business partners. Our global Web team’s goal was to make UL.com a global touch point for strengthening our brand, promoting services, capturing interest and providing expert information.

The team’s vision included developing capabilities that would deliver on that strategy and ultimately define UL as a market leader online. However, our online presence was outdated and underutilized. The last major UL Website update was in 2001, with slight modifications in 2004. By March 2007, we needed a global Website redesign.

Challenges existed on many levels. We had several sites hosted in various regions in several languages, and each region’s autonomous control resulted in an inconsistent online experience. We needed consistent brand messaging across all operating units in different countries. Unifying messaging meant aligning our regional sites in North America, Europe, Latin America, China, Japan, Korea, and several other Asian and emerging market countries. Additional challenges included significant changes within UL, and several market factors, such as industry consolidation, aggressive competition and growing consumerization of the business-to-business Web.

Our old content management system (CMS) was decentralized, making it difficult to share and retrieve information globally. The dated user interfaces and aging technologies made it hard for visitors to find what they wanted. The revamped Website had to deliver streamlined navigation, enhanced usability and solutions tailored to different audiences.

In addition to a visual redesign, our site had to provide an enhanced user experience with more functionality and usability in terms of search, Web 2.0 capabilities, analytics and dynamic content. We needed an easy way for multiple business units to update and create content that complied with UL branding. The new site had to be managed efficiently, and the venerable UL brand had to be consistent across all platforms. To accomplish all this, we needed a comprehensive online strategy that would incorporate design and content, while also creating workflow and governance processes.