As the consumption of Web content becomes more highly scrutinized by business managers measuring the effectiveness of corporate information portals and online retailers analyzing conversion rates for their marketing campaigns, the importance of rich media as a fundamental enabler of the ideal user experience has reached the critical point both for enterprises choosing WCM solutions and vendors selling them. Over the past year, companies have begun prioritizing in their selection criteria the ease with which business users can create highly-usable Web sites containing multiple rich content types. Because design agencies are repositories of expertise in site usability, it is not surprising that the market has seen a dramatic rise in their influence on enterprise selection processes. Web design firms now influence 15-20% of all enterprise-wide WCM solution purchases in the U.S. and 25-30% in Europe (including systems integrators with usability domain expertise).

What does this mean for enterprises? First, it means that they can use design agencies as leverage points to ensure that vendors with the most usable solutions win their business. Secondly, it means that WCM solutions themselves are improving rapidly in terms of usability. Software vendors know that no longer can corporate IT departments prioritize low-level feature-functionality over interface design, and therefore enhancements to user interfaces are far outstripping those to extended feature-function lists. Lastly, the increased use of analytics packages to measure the performance of WCM systems against pre-defined goals means that the ROI for these systems is becoming both more quantifiable and – very likely – more positive.

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