A site must integrate all services that are relevant for the theme being dealt with or the audience being targeted. The services offered range from basic ones that must be available on all sites to sophisticated transaction services that are tailored to the specific needs of the site's users. A whole spectrum of technical tools and e-services is available to implement these services.
Services can be broken down into the following categories:
General ‘first help’ horizontal services
Contact, FAQ, About, Site map, Search, A-Z Index
These services help the users get to know the site, either through immediate information or via a contact point. They are basic services that must be offered on each page of the site at the mandatory place on the screen.
More specific or contextual information services
What’s new, Reference library, Glossary, Key Issues, Information bulletin, Who’s who in the DG or the theme area, related events…
These services help the users to find information, news, subjects, and documents on the site. It is important that these services cover the complete set of information that the site wishes to provide. The glossary, for example, should contain all terms, i.e. those present in the site pages themselves as well as those present in the pages the site links to.
Blogs, Vlogs, Discussion forums, Chats, Social networks, Subscriptions, Surveys, Feedback, e-voting, Site rating, Information sharing, Syndication, Interactive maps
These services establish a direct interaction with the citizens, media, business, opinion leaders or decision makers. Their set-up should be carefully planned and cannot take place without provision for the proper back office facilities to support and manage them.
The "Flexible Platform" environment offers plenty of interactive services.
Ordering, Application, Calls for tender, Project management, Events registration
For online transactions a secure connection and online credit card verification should be established. The transaction for the payment should be safe. The Publications Office offers the features for online payments of publications (EU Bookshop).
- The privacy statement must be clearly stated.
- The return policy must be clearly stated.
- Delivery methods and timing must be described.
- The order page must be secure.
One of the possible assets of a site is its ability to be personalised. Although it is by no means required, it adds greatly to the usefulness and overall site experience if the users can choose the elements on display on the site. Furthermore, personalisation is something users have come to expect; failing to offer it might lead to disappointment.
There are several ways of implementing a personalised site:
This form of personalisation requires the users to be 'known' to the site (through either direct or indirect sign-on), so that the site's content can be dynamically generated in function of the users' needs. This calls for the putting in place of a sign-on mechanism and policy. Sign-on policies can be based on Roles (e.g. lawyers, business me, etc.) A main problem with Roles springs from the underlying assumption that users can only take one role, which is not necessarily the case. An alternative to the Roles approach consists of using Rules instead of Roles. Rules are policies or conventions that are set up to achieve efficiencies and that are independent of the specific role of the users in question. (e.g. geographic location of the users, current time and date ...) An advantage of a rule-based policy is the flexibility it provides. In addition, it is much easier to use this approach if users access changes frequently. The main disadvantage comes to the fore on times when users require specific information due to his or her role, that they are not able to access because a more general rule keeps them from doing so. In an attempt to get the best from both worlds, most organisations prefer to run a Role-Rule "hybrid" that best fits their needs.
Pre-defined user classes
This technique is entirely based on the definition of Roles. Instead of having the user log on to the site, this approach considers a role as a pre-defined ‘user class’, the features and characteristics of which are discovered when defining the site’s target audience. The site’s Editorial Board plans for a separate section for each of the identified user classes, in which information access is structured to suit their specific needs. This approach is less demanding on the technology side and may also be perceived as less intrusive by the user (no need to login), yet it calls for a great deal of careful on-beforehand planning.