Below are some interesting perspectives on website development by a former corporate website designer.
As an independent web designer, I try to avoid most if not all of these problems. The article below is from the Smashing eBook Series: #1, Professional Web Design.
Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites
By Paul Boag
We all make mistakes running our websites. However, the nature of those mistakes varies depending on the size of your company. As your
organization grows, the mistakes change. This article addresses common mistakes made by large organizations.
Most of the clients [the author works] with are large organizations: universities, large charities, public sector institutions and big companies. Over the
last seven years, I have noticed certain recurring misconceptionsamong these organizations. This article aims to dispel these illusionsand encourage people to face the harsh reality. The problem is that if you are reading this, you are probably already aware of these things. But hopefully this article will be helpful to you as you convince others within your organization. In any case, here are some of the harsh truths about websites of large organizations
If you don’t hire an independent web designer
In many organizations, the website is managed by either the marketing or IT department. However, this inevitably leads to a turf war, with the website becoming the victim of internal politics.
In reality, pursuing a Web strategy is not particularly suited to either group. IT may be excellent at rolling out complex systems, but it is not suited to developing a friendly user experience or establishing an online brand.
Marketing, on the other hand, is little better. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts
it . . . . The Web is a conversation. Marketing, by contrast, is a
And then there’s all that messy business with semantic markup, CSS, unobtrusive scripting, card-sorting exercises, HTML run-throughs, involving users in accessibility, and the rest of the skills and experience that don’t fall under Marketing’s purview. Instead, the website should be managed by a single unified team. Again, Zeldman sums it up when he writes: Put them in a division that recognizes that your website is not a bastard of your brochures, nor a natural outgrowth of your group calendar. Let there be
Managing Your Website Is A Full-Time Job
Not only is the website often split between marketing and IT, it is also usually under-resourced. Instead of there being a dedicated Web team, those responsible for the website are often expected to run it alongside their “day job.” When a Web team is in place, it is often over-stretched. The vast majority of its time is spent on day-to-day maintenance rather than on longer-term strategic thinking. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that the people hired to “maintain” the website are junior members of the staff. They do not have the experience or authority to push the website forward. It is time for organizations to seriously invest in their websites and finally move their Web strategies forward by hiring full-time senior Web managers.
Periodic Redesign Is Not Enough
Because corporate websites are under-resourced, they are often neglected for long periods of time. They slowly become out of date in their content, design and technology. Eventually, the website becomes such an embarrassment that management steps in and demands that it be sorted. This inevitably leads to a complete redesign at
This is a flawed approach. It is a waste of money, because when the old website is replaced, the investment that was put into it is lost, too. It is also tough on finances, with a large expenditure having to be made every few years.
Cameron Moll encourages Web designers to realign, not redesign.
A better way is continual investment in your website, allowing it to evolve over time. Not only is this less wasteful, it is also better for users, as pointed out by Cameron Moll in his post Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign.
Your Website Cannot Appeal To Everyone
One of the first questions I ask a client is, “Who is your target audience?” I am regularly shocked at the length of the reply. Too often, it includes a long and detailed list of diverse people. Inevitably, my next question is, “Which of those many demographic groups are most important?” Depressingly, the answer is usually that they are all equally important.
The harsh truth is that if you build a website for everyone, it will appeal to no one. It is important to be extremely focused about your audience and cater your design and content to it. Does this mean you should ignore your other users? Not at all. Your website should be accessible by all and not offend or exclude anybody. However, the
website does need to be primarily aimed at a clearly defined audience.
Are You Wasting Money On Social Networking?
I find it encouraging that website managers increasingly recognize that a Web strategy involves more than running a website. They are beginning to use tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to increase their reach and engage with new audiences. However, although they are using these tools, too often they do so ineffectively.Tweeting on a corporate account or posting sales demonstrations on YouTube misses the essence of social networking. Social networking is about people engaging with people. Individuals do not want to build relationships with brands and corporations. They want to talk to other people. Too many organizations throw millions into Facebook apps and viral videos when they could spend that money on engaging with people in a transparent and open way.”
The above is an excerpt. Read more here.