RealTime IT News

Optus Sees Through Portal for User Experience

[Sydney, Australia] -- Telecommunications carrier and ISP Cable & Wireless Optus (CWO) has overhauled its user interaction strategy, unveiling a new portal site complete with personalization capabilities.

The OptusNet portal will become Optus' new drive to make its site more than an information source, but a sticky resource that provides information across 12 channels to the user's desktop.

Excite Australia, in which CWO shares ownership with @Home in the US, has produced the interface for the new portal, and Optus will use Excite's editorial staff to provide content.

"There will be the same general content as at Excite, and we'll see how we go with developing our own later down the track," said Donna Lachance, CWO director of multimedia and Internet.

This content will be spread across the same channels Excite provides at its own site, which include auto, sport, shopping, travel and careers and education.

As well as providing the content, Excite has served as the blueprint for OptusNet's personalization system, in which users can select and order the information they want to receive from specific channels, and can change the site's colors and layout while remaining within the same basic template.

"We have been able to give customers a complete Internet experience with our ISP service, and we wanted to provide a point from which they could start surfing," said Lachance. "Our research has shown that the vast majority of users appreciate having a start page that provides basic information, rather than having to seek it. Plus, ISP sites are powerful drivers for the sites they link to, and we want to be able to use that."

The portal is a complete redesign for Optus, whose previous site was even recognized within the company as not being a real aid to users. As the company's marketing campaign is seeking new Internet users among other subscribers to the ISP service, it has sought provide basic information without making these people search for it.

In addition to editorial content, Lachance said that Optus planned to turn the portal into a communications dashboard from which users can organize their Optus voice and data services. The company is planning to roll out capabilities such as arranging unified messaging, to create a single retrieval point for voice mail, e-mail and faxes, and configuring Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) services. Optus' WAP service, OptusNetworker, is hoped to go live within the next few weeks, and the telco is sealing agreements with content providers and e-tailers to populate the service.

"We'd be much happier if we can wow customers with what they didn't realize they wanted to see," said Lachance. "These are the first steps of many convergent services you will see."