10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites

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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 post addresses common mistakes among large organizations.

Most of the clients I work with are large organizations: universities, large charities, public sector institutions and large companies. Over the last 7 years, I have noticed certain recurring misconceptions among these organizations. This post aims to dispel these illusions and encourage people to face the harsh reality.

The problem is that if you are reading this post, 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 our 10 harsh truths about websites of large organizations.

1. You Need A Separate Web Division

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.

Screenshot of Zeldman's website
Zeldman1 urges organisations to create a separate web division.

Marketing, on the other hand, is little better. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts it in his article Let there be Web divisions2:

The Web is a conversation. Marketing, by contrast, is a monologue… 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 Web divisions.

2. 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 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 by hiring full-time senior Web managers to move their Web strategies forward.

3. 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 with 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 considerable expense. As I point out in the Website Owners Manual3, this a flawed approach. It is a waste of money because when the old website is replaced, the investment put into it is lost, too. It is also tough on finances, with a large expenditure having to be made every few years.

Screenshot of Cameron Molls Article
Cameron Moll encourages4 web designers to realign their website rather than 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 Realign5.

4. 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.

5. You Are Wasting Money On Social Networking

I find it encouraging that website managers increasingly recognize that a Web strategy is 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.

Screenshot of Microsoft's Channel 9 website
Microsoft dramatically improved its image amoung the development community by allowing Microsoft staff to speak out via the Channel 9 website.

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 away.

Instead of creating a corporate Twitter account or indeed even a corporate blog, encourage your employees to start Tweeting and blogging themselves. Provide guidelines on acceptable behavior and what tools they need to start engaging directly with the community connected to your products and services. This demonstrates not only your commitment to the community but also the human side of your business.

6. Your Website Is Not All About You

Where some website managers want their website to appeal to everybody, others want it to appeal to themselves and their colleagues. A surprising number of organizations ignore their users entirely and base their websites entirely on an organizational perspective. This typically manifests itself in inappropriate design that caters to the managing director’s personal preferences and contains content full of jargon.

A website should not pander to the preferences of staff but should rather meet the needs of its users. Too many designs are rejected because the boss “doesn’t like green.” Likewise, too much website copy contains acronyms and terms used only within the organization.

7. You’re Not Getting Value From Your Web Team

Whether they have an in-house Web team or use an external agency, many organizations fail to get the most from their Web designers. Web designers are much more than pixel pushers. They have a wealth of knowledge about the Web and how users interact with it. They also understand design techniques, including grid systems, white space, color theory and much more.

Post from Twitter complaining about being a pixel pusher
Treating designers as pixel pushers wastes their design experience: post from Twitter complaining about being a pixel pusher

It is therefore wasteful to micro-manage by asking them to “make the logo bigger” or to “move that 3 pixels to the left.” By doing so, you are reducing their role to that of a software operator and wasting the wealth of experience they bring.

If you want to get the maximum return on your Web team, present it with problems, not solutions. For example, if you’re targeting your website at teenage girls, and the designer goes for corporate blue, suggest that your audience might not respond well to that color. Do not tell him or her to change it to pink. This way, the designer has the freedom to find a solution that may even be better than your choice. You allow your designer to solve the problem you have presented.

8. Design By Committee Brings Death

The ultimate symbol of a large organization’s approach to website management is the committee. A committee is often formed to tackle the website because internal politics demand that everybody has a say and all considerations be taken into account. To say that all committees are a bad idea is naive, and to suggest that a large corporate website could be developed without consultation is fanciful. However, when it comes to design, committees are often the kiss of death.

Illustration showing why design by committee fails
Design by committee leads to design on the fly.

Design is subjective. The way we respond to a design can be influenced by culture, gender, age, childhood experience and even physical conditions (such as color blindness). What one person considers great design could be hated by another. This is why it is so important that design decisions be informed by user testing rather than personal experience. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely taken when a committee is involved in design decisions.

Instead, designing by committee becomes about compromise. Because committee members have different opinions about the design, they look for ways to find common ground. One person hates the blue color scheme, while another loves it. This leads to designing on the fly, with the committee instructing the designer to “try a different blue” in the hopes of finding middle ground. Unfortunately, this leads only to bland design that neither appeals to nor excites anyone.

9. A CMS Is Not A Silver Bullet

Many of the clients I work with have amazingly unrealistic expectations of CMS (content management systems). Those without one think it will solve all of their content woes, while those who have one moan about it because it hasn’t!

It is certainly true that a CMS can bring a lot of benefits. These include:

  • reducing the technical barriers of adding content,
  • allowing more people to add and edit content,
  • facilitating faster updates,
  • and allowing greater control.

However, many CMS are less flexible than their owners would like. They fail to meet the changing demands of the websites they manage. Website managers also complain that their CMS is hard to use. However, in many cases, this is because those using it have not been adequately trained or are not using it regularly enough.

Finally, a CMS may allow content to be easily updated, but it does not ensure that content will be updated or even that the quality of content will be acceptable. Many CMS-based websites still have out-of-date content or poorly written copy. This is because internal processes have not been put in place to support the content contributors.

If you look to a CMS to solve your website maintenance issues, you will be disappointed.

10. You Have Too Much Content

Part of the problem with content maintenance on large corporate websites is that there is too much content in the first place. Most of these websites have “evolved” over years, with more and more content having been added. At no stage has anybody reviewed the content and asked what could be taken away.

Many website managers fill their website with copy that nobody will read. This happens because of:

  • A fear of missing something: by putting everything online, they believe users will be able to find whatever they want. Unfortunately, with so much information available, it is hard to find anything.
  • A fear users will not understand: whether from a lack of confidence in their website or in their audience, they feel the need to provide endless instruction to users. Unfortunately, users never read this copy.
  • A desperate desire to convince: they are desperate to sell their product or communicate their message, and so they bloat the text with sales copy that actually conveys little valuable information.

Steve Krug, in his book Don’t Make Me Think, encourages website managers to “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” This will reduce the noise level on each page and make the useful content more prominent.

Conclusions

Large organizations do a lot right in running their websites. However, they also face some unique challenges that can lead to painful mistakes. Resolving these problems means accepting that mistakes have been made, overcoming internal politics and changing the way you control your brand. Doing so will give you a significant competitive advantage and allow your Web strategy to become more effective over the long term.

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.zeldman.com
  2. 2 http://www.zeldman.com/2007/07/02/let-there-be-web-divisions/
  3. 3 http://boagworld.com/websiteownersmanual
  4. 4 http://www.alistapart.com/articles/redesignrealign
  5. 5 http://www.alistapart.com/articles/redesignrealign

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Paul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the web design agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy. Paul is a prolific writer having written the Website Owners Manual, Building Websites for Return on Investment, Client Centric Web Design, Digital Adaptation and numerous articles for publications such as .net magazine, Smashing Magazine and the Web Designers Depot. Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both at conferences across the world and on his award winning Web design podcast boagworld.

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  1. 1

    You are telling me my life… as (until recently) the web admin responsible for an enormous not for profit website for the last 4 years I can relate to every.single.point you raise. Gave up in the end, trying to turn the ship towards better results/practices became impossible.

  2. 2

    This is a fantastic post – I hope it’s read by the worst offenders in the corporate blogging world (though somehow I doubt it). More on this subject:
    http://agitationist.com/corporate-blogs-arent-trusted-forrester-research

  3. 3

    whoa .. that was good. thx sm.

  4. 4

    Great Article. I cannot agree more. These insights will help me battle for a web development department.

  5. 5

    Some interesting views, particularly on redesign vs. realign. Sometimes, I think a site needs a redesign but that realignment should become an ongoing process from there. We need to reclaim the word redesign from the people who think *that’s* the silver bullet, never mind the CMS!

  6. 6

    Wow, these are great rules to live by. We just launched our new site and I think we followed most of them :-)

  7. 7

    this is a very original article with a few interesting pointers as to how to manage one’s online identity, thanks for sharing.

  8. 8

    Great post, really enjoyed it! Unfortunately, I don’t think all of the blame can be placed on the corporations, alone. They’re quite frequently led down the wrong path by their Ad Agencies that convince them social media is a must for everyone, flash is cool, static content is fine, etc.

    Too many agencies have embraced the Web in name only, and lead their clients astray, which causes corporations to have sub-par yet super-expensive websites. I actually recently wrote about how in order to really help their clients leverage the web rather than just racking up huge bills for disappointing sites.

    Thanks for the post and hopefully 2009 is the year this trend starts to change!

  9. 9

    OK… this is about the best damn post I have read in quite awhile. And for you guys, that’s saying something since I am such a HUGE fan. I will print this and laminate it and post it on my wall… big… maybe in, like… Helvetica or something.

    Damn. Just damn!

  10. 10

    What a great article. I’ve experienced every single one of these.

  11. 11

    Brilliant article.

  12. 12

    Absolutely right on. I run into these all the time with clients.

    They tend to forget who the experts are.

  13. 13

    Excellent article Paul, and certainly something that rings true for me.

    Having just left a Fortune 500 for a web startup I can tell you that you have hit the nail right on the head.

  14. 14

    great insight! you hit it on the head with #5. just because social media is the newest thing, doesn’t mean companies should dive in blindly. a smart web manager would first evaluate HOW their audience would use twitter, facebook, or blogs – or if it even makes sense for them to use these at all!

  15. 15

    SM thanks for this post. As an experiential designer (aka pixel pusher) at a large corp. i couldn’t agree more, especially with #7, #8, and #10… i’ll be printing this one out and passing it along to some of the folks i work with. I would email it to them but I’m afraid they wouldn’t know what to do with it. :)

  16. 16

    Very informative article. Thanks!

  17. 17

    to borrow a beat cliche…

    greatest.sm.post.evar!

  18. 18

    Excellent article. I deal with these issues each day and each day I feel less and less appreciated as a designer/developer. Clients and even some PM’s don’t understand the design process let alone the development process and in the end it’s the site (and the designer) that suffers. Subtle and tactful education of the client and parties involved is the only solutions I’ve come up with but even then it sometimes does no good.

    Thank you for putting it all out there.

  19. 19

    Amen to that! Some very good points here. (WARNING: Copywriter rant! They all apply equally to copywriting too, not just the overall website project.)

    The one thing I’d qualify is the wholesale reduction of content volume. I agree that corporations tend to have HEAPS of content, but that can sometimes be a good thing. Remember, as a rule, search engines like to see a lot of content, so consider that before slashing. I’m not saying you should just put any old rubbish up there. Nor am I saying a lot of that content couldn’t do with an overhaul (how’s that for a double-negative?! ;-). I’m saying consider the search engines before you go culling. Perhaps a ‘More info…’ link is required? Or perhaps the existing content is all valuable – at heart – and just needs to be adapted to something read-and-searche-engine friendly?

    Even if it’s badly written, content generally equates to knowledge, and that’s exactly what you should be including on your website. Especially in times (as we are now) when prospective buyers are required to more comprehensively justify every purchase. (Coincidentally, Joanna Lord wrote an interesting post at Search Engine Land on this today – ‘Tuning Up Your Landing Pages In An Economic Downturn’.)

    And on this note, I actually disagree with your claim that “users never read this copy”. They do. If it’s properly written, and the website’s architecture guides them through the learning/selling process effectively. If it’s low level, FEWER people will read it, but those few people will get a lot of value out of it.

    Anyway, a nice post and some very good points. If nothing else, it’s good to hear some others are suffering! ;-)

    Cheers, Glenn (@divinewrite on twitter)

  20. 20

    I like the part about less. More white space, less clutter, who is your audience.Yes!
    FOCUS!

  21. 21

    Fantastic post. Great points.

  22. 22

    This is a wonderful, awesome article. Thanks so much!
    Megan

  23. 23

    Great article!

  24. 24

    Oh baby, the folk who think that the CMS works like an old Kevin Costner movie are amazing. I’m a web developer. I’m a writer. So yes, I can implement your CMS, and I can even put together a really lovely doco for your content managers. But I can’t hold their hands or go to their houses and threaten them until they update their content.

    The truth is, they probably won’t. Because primarily, they are their JOB FUNCTION. Realising inherited responsibility for some web content no one cares about – and an expectation to update it – does not a motivated content manager make!

    (Twitter @crinkled)

  25. 25

    Good article. I must say, however, that beyond a certain volume of content, not using a CMS could become quite cumbersome because editing and managing static HTML pages would be very complex and require a huge amount of effort. More importantly, this increases the scope for broken links and messed up pages. So while a CMS is definitely not a silver bullet, it does reduce the headaches and makes website management a lot simpler.

  26. 26

    A very nice article… Keep up the good work… :D

  27. 27

    excellent article. Im going to make all of my clients read this from now on.

  28. 28

    I wish our clients read these articles!

  29. 29

    well actually marketing department can put life in the website. But still you need IT staff to maintain and even to create your website.

  30. 30

    OMG. Thank you for this! My web team & I (in a mid-size, international non-profit) struggle with each of these issues daily. How do we present these ideas to our senior managers without looking like whiners or prima donnas?

  31. 31

    These are strange but are absolutely true. Thanks a lot!

  32. 32

    well just to counterweight the stroke jobs from the rest of commenters, i for one thought this article was weak sauce. harsh truths about this website: who is the audience? newbies? and leading with screens from zeldman and alist? its like you’re admitting this has already covered this. 10 years ago.

  33. 33

    I strongly agree with point 8. “Design By Committee Brings Death” , This process hurts not only design but Irritates the designer too.

  34. 34

    I agree with most of what was said, especially the part about CMSs. Everybody wants a CMS, but they don’t realize that they are just as technically challenging as learning how to make a website from scratch. Take drupal as an example. Sit a client down in front of the admin interface for the first time, and they won’t have a clue.

  35. 35

    Oh I love this article. Moving from a print designer in the marketing dept to a web designer in IT was quite difficult come re-doing the website and keeping everyone happy. I can definitely relate to this article and wish I read it 2 years ago. Thanks. Now I have back up…

  36. 36

    really nice and detailed article thanks you sooo much i have learned alot form this article keep posting :)

  37. 37

    Great! Another article that boosts our morale as web designers in the corporate arena!

    Being bureaucratic has its downside.

  38. 38

    Abdulsalam Alasaadi

    February 10, 2009 9:34 pm

    Thank you for your valuable information. well written.
    I personally lived almost all the harsh realities you have talked about. I worked for a ministry for two years and now I work in a big telecommunication company.
    Both of the organizations have very strict policies in changing/updating anything in their websites. A lot of people try to interfere and make a design suggestion!

  39. 39

    Absolutely agree. I hate our corporate design (in my company) :)

  40. 40

    clap clap clap

    i couldn’t agree more – especially the part about cms? i swear every client feels that way. and the “death by committee” bit? man…..haven’t we all been there when a client will email you and say, “so i sent your designs to the board….”

    AGH.

    terrible. thank you SM! i appreciate the fact that others understand :)

  41. 41

    #8 is so very, very true.
    After working internally on a web re-design for a auto info service group (the driest material you will ever design for) it started with a team of two.. then three, then every Director, then their Sr. Managers and eventually the CEO. I won’t bore you with the details but the site map alone took 6 months, it was delivered 5 months late and way over budget all in the name of ‘compromise’.

    I can honestly say I never want to go through that again!

  42. 42

    “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.” This totally sums up my working life… I’m the web designer between bonehead marketers that think internet marketing is when you put www. on a fridge magnet and an IT department that thinks a 2mb email limit is big enough for everyone.

  43. 43

    #7 is brilliant I couldnt have said it better myself. it makes me glad i dropped pixel usher clients as my vibe with them was very null and blah.http://www.agendaium.com

  44. 44

    I deal with this every – single – day. Especially number 7. Great post!

  45. 45

    Excellent article~!!
    The point that has been made in this article should be realized by far more people than we think in my opinion.

  46. 46

    Before this I have 2 staff. Now I’m one man Army to handle the Web. Have to get my brain to the GYM.

  47. 47

    Craig - Abrishca Digital Media

    February 10, 2009 11:18 pm

    Great article, it would be great to circulate this to businesses and companies to illustrate the skill, knowledge and professionalism that a dedicated web team can bring to an organisation.

  48. 48

    Rightly said and an apt article….very well the scenario in the place where i am working now…Hits the nail right into the head…

  49. 49

    Really helpful post! Thanks for that, Paul!

  50. 50

    Good basic article – there is some good conclusions, now we just need to find out how to solve the problems ;)

  51. 51

    Great article. One of the best on SM. Congrats.

  52. 52

    After doing this for nearly ten years in our organisation – I completely agree with these points. Managers in the industry need to have, even on a conceptual level – a better understanding of the complexities of corporate web design. This will allow them to be able to better engage with their online clients and their web team, and produce a successfully designed and delivered core site, which people will want to come back to. Kudos!

  53. 53

    Hi,
    wonderful post, and mostly true, from my experience.

    I would be interested to further here your notion about the “committee” issue. I do agree that it may cause painful and odd looking compromises. But what is your solution to that problem?
    Users opinion is just one input for decisions. it cannot fully determine to design of you website…

    would you assign only one or two people to design and build a corporate website?

  54. 54

    Excellent truths, which we do face a no of times. Especially the “committe taking up decisions and brining death” of a lovely deisgn indeed!

    Thanks SM.

  55. 55

    I’d forward this article to my boss if it wasn’t for the fact that we aren’t going to do anything about it until he says so. My company SERIOUSLY needs a slight touch-up of its company site:

  56. 56

    Having worked for the imbeciles at Dixons plc (one of Europe’s largest electrical retailers – how they managed that I will never know!) I can associate with this on almost a word by word basis.

    Great article but if any corporation does anything useful with any of this information (without a series of pointless and ineffective meetings to discuss… and to argue about the multiple alterations to the final reports colour scheme and font size) then I will eat the internet.

  57. 57

    I love point 8 ! It’s always the same. Design or ergonomy should but can not be collectively decided…

  58. 58

    The best article I have seen on here – I have sent it to several managers in my company…

  59. 59

    Additional note: This should be read and understood by anyone considering a career in an in-house design position. At least they would know what they were getting into then!

  60. 60

    Nice article. Very usefull and detailed. Thanks for posting SM

  61. 61

    Great article. Its like you work at the company I do. Pretty much all those statements ring true for me personally!

  62. 62

    Those points are 100% true. All of them!
    Who knows, maybe one day those things will change and evolve.
    A design&corporate change we can believe in :)

    Great article, thanks!

  63. 63

    All true!

    Greetings,
    Dusan,
    Web manager.

  64. 64

    AMEN! Experiencing #7 & #8 as I type this. This post is so perfect that I don’t even have anything to add… Plus I’m sending it around to every designer on my team.

    But it is sort of sad that we all agree but know there is no quick fix around this stuff. At least we should all be aware what we are getting ourselves into with corporate projects/jobs.

  65. 65

    Point 7 really struck a chord for me; in fact I’ve just changed jobs for that very reason, I felt my skills and experience were being completely wasted

  66. 66

    Richard Spencer Davies

    February 11, 2009 1:36 am

    Great Post!

  67. 67

    These are good points. Redesigns are a bit of a soap box issue for me. I wrote a post about this particular point a while back:
    http://www.goodusability.co.uk/2008/11/do-you-really-need-to-do-that-redesign/

    Jared Spool also wrote about the quiet death of the major re-launch:
    http://www.uie.com/articles/death_of_relaunch/

    Another point I’d make is that your web team should not be looking after your intranet. They never give it the attention it deserves. Usually because they don’t have the resource to.

  68. 68

    Give those employees managing a corporate website’s content more freedom, some training (maybe even – wooo – let them learn and use some html basics) and then trust them to do the right thing.
    I mean, I’ve seen hundreds of thousends (euros :-) ) vanish in rather useless (often customized) CMS solutions, nobody is happy with. They build templates after templates with dropdowns, tons of choices, totally restricted for the person using it daily. These people have to literally study how the CMS works, how each template works. And everytime they need to create a piece of content, they have to ask for a new template or functionality, wait for weeks to get it, while the company spends alot of money ordering it. Plus, it might take for ever to get some content up and online.

    So, why not postulate some guidelines about what sort of content, what look and feel is wanted, let the employees in charge fill a given “content area” with the appropriate (x)html. Teach them to validate and quick check in different browsers, trust them to do the right thing, let someone preview and approve and then publish that content. Man, it’s not so hard.

    I believe the misconception is that someone with virtually no web-knowledge should copy and paste word content into a 250-thousend-euro system. Why? Does anyone in an office, creating worthwhile content for their catalogue/brochure lay that out in word, indesign or whatever and send that out for printing 2 million copies? No – it’s been layed out by professional designers first.
    And imagine the total cost of ownership: Cut away 200 thousand. How long and how well could you pay someone to “just do it” with that money.

  69. 69

    Great article. Thanks for that.

  70. 70

    These are all very true observations, in my experience – and very well expressed.. But then, it’s not new to say “design by commitee is bad” – we know this – what does it do to tell each other things we all have to put up with all of the time?

    It seems business-types care about their BMWs and their expensive suits and their bonuses. They don’t care about the quality of work if it doesn’t relate directly to what their boss thinks, or how it makes them look, or how much money can be made out of it. They’re driven by greed, and envy, and laziness – that’s why they’re business types.

    I get the sad feeling that those of us who genuinely care about producing good, creative work are like those Japanese soldiers left behind on pacific islands after WW2 – still trying to fight a war that was lost years before.

  71. 71

    i dont often read the whole thing.. this was good!

    Smashed it

  72. 72

    Interesting post and discussion. Its important to recognise that many organisations have real difficulty in making the most of the web and to try and set some misconceptions straight.

    However, I’m not sure that the article really offers any strong conclusions, or helps to identify the root cause behind these problems: in order to help people offer better experiences online we have to identify problems but also to offer concrete solutions.

    The thing about large organisations is they are complex, and you can’t point at any one single individual to responsibilty for communicating online.

    In my opinion, the key issue here is about leadership – its up to “top management” to set direction and everything follows from this. The challenge for us as a community is therefore how do help companies understand what’s involved in being successful online and engage decision makers in the right way.

    Paul McKeever
    FRONT / follow me on twitter – @paulmckeever

  73. 73

    email this to every organisation in the world, especially if they have an inhouse web team.

  74. 74

    knowledgeble informative and excellent article !

    Thanks Smashing Magazine !!!!!!!!!!!!

  75. 75

    I am a critical bastard and as such can be told nothing due to an artificially inflated self-worth and a blatant desire to rule the world in my underwear.

    The sagacity of this article unveils my kinder, gentler self; I now desire to frolic on a midsummer’s day through fields of clover and cavort to the tunes of robin and sparrow.

    …that just looks fcking weird.

    Anyhoo, well done. Well done. Excellent wisdom here.

  76. 76

    A good article. Having been responsible for looking after public facing websites for large companies in the past I have seen a lot of these points first hand and you have hit the nail on the head.

  77. 77

    Very good article indeed, the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from Smashing Magazine. These truths are all spot-on, especially here in my country where the corporate mindset is still very old-fashioned. Most companies just want to put up a website, then they don’t care whether it gets updated or not. Oh, and everyone is strangely obsessed with Flash sites that serve absolutely no purpose. Go figure.

  78. 78

    That’s a good read! Thanks for the all the information on those harsh truths.

  79. 79

    It’s like you work where I do. Brilliant article, but they all seem so familiar to me!

  80. 80

    Izabela Bogdanovic

    February 11, 2009 3:08 am

    You are right Paul Boag, you are right… but!
    I really don’t feel any better after this article. I was just reminded about all the things I have to put up with in course of my work.

    This article is completely wasted on the population who reads? Smashing Magazine. You can’t change the people, you just accept them for who they are. If you constantly try to make them feel like idiots because you know more you are, indeed, on the wrong path.

  81. 81

    My thought exactly. #11 should have been, Thou Shalt Not Flash! (Not if you want to reach the new mobile user.) There are some sites that are so bad in this regard, that I actually *prefer* to access the mobile site alternative on my desktop, when it’s available!

  82. 82

    A must-read for all corporate directors.

  83. 83

    Very good and very pertinent to the project I am currently working on.

    Have forwarded on to my line managers and fellow developers ;-)

    — Lee

  84. 84

    “It’s like you work where I do. Brilliant article, but they all seem so familiar to me!”

    Yeah, I’ll second that one! I’ve printed the article out and plan to discuss some of the points with the people I work with. Thanks for the great article, Paul!

  85. 85

    Simple, but brilliant.

    Now make EVERY client read that now. And again. And again. And again. And again.

  86. 86

    bang on mate ! been in similar situations over and over again – “can u just move this over here” etc. and all design commities should be shoot

  87. 87
  88. 88

    WOW! Spot on!

    I used to work for a “client” organisation, but went back into development about a year ago. I headed a redesign project of the company’s website and reading this article was like reading the manual that should have been around back then. I could identify myself and/or the company in almost every point made here.

    In the hope that there are lessons to be learned from this to improve the company’s web design process in the future, I sent this to my former managers (g’day if you’re reading this ;) ).

    Cheers!

  89. 89

    I have to say you have got it spot on. Evereything you have said rings so true with my experience as a web designer.

  90. 90

    Wonderful and unique article that is going to make me look at my web site at this moment.

  91. 91

    About point 10#:

    There is no such thing as TO MUCH content, you can never have enough. It just the way people display the content that is wrong.

    What you speak of is BAD content. The amount of content has nothing to do with that.

  92. 92

    I wish there was someone like the author working at my previous job.
    All those mistakes where a fact for me and the reason to leave.

  93. 93

    There is over a decades worth of knowledge wrapped up in this glorious post. Thank you!

    Lets up hope this message reaches the right people :)

    I’d also like to point out, this applies as much to SMB market as it does to larger corporations.

  94. 94

    Great article, sadly to much rings true. If only I had the bottle to send to the boss ;)

  95. 95

    nice post.

  96. 96

    I’m a web designer for my company. I have 2 bosses, one in IT and one in marketing….

  97. 97

    Voila. Compulsory reading for about 70% of our clients

  98. 98

    This is the Jerry McGuire Mission Statement for Corporate Web Developers! This hits the nail on the head for just about every problem my company is facing right now. I just sent it to my colleagues… Hopefully I won’t suffer the same fate as Jerry McGuire!

  99. 99

    What an excellent read – this article definitely made me step back and rethink my company’s website, and certainly has some points I want to bring up with the team.

    I especially liked #5 – many companies feel the need to use social networking tools, so they just start posting without any thought or good ambition.

  100. 100

    Excellent article, 100% true.

  101. 101

    omg, I wish my boss can read this article.

  102. 102

    Great article, this could not be more helpful than right now as we are in the process of redesign! Thanks

  103. 103

    Some nice tips there Paul

  104. 104

    Amen! There IS such a thing as too much content.

    The first company I ever worked for broke all 10 rules alone. As a copywriter my favorite comments back to them were always “do you have such little faith in your sales/customer support team that you don’t want them to EVER be called to answer questions or for more information? Do you want to leave your potential customers searching through your vast website alone?” I left and they called in a high-priced consultant who told them the same thing. :-)

  105. 105

    THANK YOU for finally addressing this issue! I can say flat-out that it’s like you were a fly on the wall at every single meeting I’ve been in for the past three months regarding my company’s (disastrous) Web site plans. Thumbs up for the article and, even more, for allowing my coworkers and I laugh about how incredibly appropriate this post is, because we really needed that chuckle.

  106. 106

    This is the most incredible article I’ve ever read!
    I’ll try to use it when I get into these situations.

  107. 107

    nice article and bang on to the point.

  108. 108

    AWESOME article! There is not an ounce of lies in this entire thing. I work in the Communications department for a regulatory college and we are re-hauling our website…YOU HAVE TOO MUCH CONTENT!

  109. 109

    So glad to see Paul Boag writing some articles for Smashing! So far, they have been excellent!

  110. 110

    Good article and points all around… now the work begins and trying to get C-level suits to see, listen and agree to all these! :)

  111. 111

    Dead on. Keep up the great work.

  112. 112

    Good article. You’ve opened up a can of worms with this one. I’d give the readers here a look at our corportate site to see how bad things can actually get, but don’t really need confirmation that it sucks.

  113. 113

    This is fantastic, I’m a freelance designer and often find that we need more information like this pointed at clients, a lot of my clients are willing to learn and understand that they make dumb requests only because they are not aware of the limitations.
    As the newer generations come up into management, they are more open to technology and all the “I dont want to know just do it” dinosaurs are becoming extinct. This type of article from a reliable source helps get the point across when they look at us with that “what do you know, you’re too young” face.

  114. 114

    Wow guys, thank you all so much for the huge encouragement! Glad you found it useful. :)

  115. 115

    Nice article!

  116. 116

    Number 10 hurts. My company has been around a while and we have 900+ pages of information covering about 80 products. While I think it’s good to ruthlessly edit content I think it’s equally important to think about data presentation and effective search tools thus making the information as accessible as possible – sometimes a lot of info is actually needed.

    This was a very good article. Thanks!

  117. 117

    Right on Paul!

  118. 118

    Great article! Has a corporate design freelancer, I couldn’t agree more. I understand the whole redesign vs. realign, but in many cases some companies REALLY do need a complete redesign. Now, redesigning for the sake of having fancy graphics is a no-no. A design should of course align itself with all the objectives and goals to doing a “redesign” in the first place.

    Cheers!

  119. 119

    Great article, keep it on guys :o)

  120. 120

    Also, one BIG truth I think you missed, and one thing many very few companies do well, is many corporate sites (especially those in technology and other serviced-based businesses) don’t properly define their value proposition! Most of time you can’t really figure out what they do or why their different, only that “XYZ Company offers best-of-breed solutions for global operations to increase performance and sustainability across several sectors and agencies”

    Umm, what?!

  121. 121

    Oh wow, you really are someone who has been there, done that! I sit here going yep, yep, yep.

    Don’t forget the HIPPO (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) which many of us suffer from. You do sometimes sit down and try to work out why your years of knowledge is ignored. Then later you have to duck for cover when conversions go down and the blame is heading your way even though you knew it was going to happen and tried to stop it.

  122. 122

    Welcome to my life!

    Just about every single one of those applies to where I’ve been working for the last few years. Good article. I’ve emailed it around…

  123. 123

    We are not alone! That’s so reassuring :)

    But – what is it about corp culture that makes this such a common experience ?

  124. 124

    Nice. More from Paul :)

  125. 125

    Awesome article, I’ve been spouting off a lot of the same sentiment. Now I have a place I can point people too to just read it instead of listening to me rant :)

  126. 126

    Totally just forwarded this link to my boss…

  127. 127

    absolutely great!

  128. 128

    sososososo awesome, relevant, necessary. thank you.

  129. 129

    Somebody has to spoil the party, sorry.

    10 Harsh Truths About This Article

    10. Good points, but obvious to anyone who has been in the business more than 3 months.

    9. Only valuable to designers that probably don’t have the vision to do anything but push pixels.

    8. Contains dangerous generalities like designing by committee is deadly. A bad process is deadly, but design by single person who thinks they are a genius is just as bad, or worse.

    7. Just because some companies are guilty of these well-know pitfalls, doesn’t mean it’s a wide-spread problem, unless, of course it’s your source of income to fix bad websites.

    6. These harsh truths don’t have much relevance if you design in the e-commerce field, not because they don’t apply, but because you’re out-of-business if you didn’t already know these “truths.”

    5. The article’s tone, voice and illustration all come across as disturbingly derivative of Steve Krug’s work. It is one thing to champion a cause, but this is a little too close to the line of unoriginality claim evangelical status. Take your copies of this article off the wall and buy your boss a copy of “Don’t Make Me Think.”

    4. It is scary to think that so many unqualified designers need the comfort of these “truths.”

    3. This article promotes divisional thinking to an audience of mediocre designers working in small minded companies.

    2. Announcing that a good idea, executed poorly is wrong, isn’t exactly ground breaking.

    1. The author counted the wrong direction. Casey Kasem and David Letterman taught us that to make an effective presentation, a reversed reveal increases audience engagement.

  130. 130

    Great article. But you’re right. The people who need to learn this information aren’t the people who’ll be reading it.

    I work on very large sports league websites for a Fortune 100 company. And I can tell you that the biggest challenge we face is dealing with 20 different divisions all wanting above-the-fold, homepage presence. And they all want their piece to be bold, red, larger, blinking, and higher up the page. (And then, of course, there are 728 x 90 and 300 x 250 ads that have to appear above the fold.) So everyone’s crowding into a 1000 x 660px space and no one’s willing to acknowledge that, y’know, only 1% of the users care about their section of the site. So maybe we should let the homepage attractively deliver the content that 95% of the users are coming for.

    No one’s known for everything. Be known for something rather than nothing.

    Thanks for letting me vent. :)

  131. 131

    You’re the man, Paul!

  132. 132

    Have you been watching my life? I think I am going to show this to my CEO.

  133. 133

    begins crying

  134. 134

    Mr. Boag steps from behind the microphone, great article!
    -t

  135. 135

    its so true about clients criticising for the sake of it and not trusting your design decisions.

    I wouldn’t ever tell them how to do their job if i was a client. I wouldn’t tell a dentist how to fix my teeth so why should they tell me how big a logo should be.

    everyone thinks they are qualified to design.

  136. 136

    “Somebody has to spoil the party, sorry.”
    Really, no, they don’t. Don’t like it? Think everyone else here is a loser? Then go somewhere else and stop wasting your time.

  137. 137

    Great article, Im in a large company that has every single one of those issues above!!

  138. 138

    true, true.. 100% true.. !

  139. 139

    great great great article.

  140. 140

    Wow, how familiar I am with most of those. Brilliant article! Now – how to get the administration at our university to read it?

  141. 141

    @125 Sounds like you just know it all. Problem is, no one’s ever heard of you. Your opinion, while hilariously entertaining, doesn’t stack up to the advice from an established web strategist like Paul.

  142. 142

    REALLY??? Am I the only reader that wasn’t blown away by the article (besides #125)? If the content of this article is news to you people, I feel sorry for you. I’ve been building and marketing Web sites since 1996, and the top ten are old hat to those of us that have made a living helping companies create a meaningful online presence. A few comments I didn’t notice in a glance at the 135 other comments:

    1. Wasting Time on Social Networking is not entirely accurate. Bad marketing is bad marketing, social media notwithstanding. Good social media marketing creates awareness and engagement, period. Just because a company has corporate profiles doesn’t mean people don’t want to hear from them or that it can’t offer value. It’s a communication platform, so why not communicate. There are a variety of reasons to use social media beyond outbound communication: search engine visibility and online reputation management are two reasons our clients use social media.
    http://www.anvilmediainc.com/social-media-marketing-optimization-article.html
    http://www.anvilmediainc.com/online-reputation-management-article.htm
    2. In regards to Too Much Content…we’ll, I agree that bad content is bad content, but in terms of gaining visibility and connecting with your audience, content is king. If it is timely (or timeless), offers value of some kind and is well optimized for search engine visibility (SEO) then there are very good reasons to create content. On a related note, having an SEO-friendly CMS is also important, which is why we love WordPress…it’s great for blogging, and good at managing corporate content, but is bombproof for search engine optimization.
    http://www.anvil-media.com/archives/030105/contentisking.htm

  143. 143

    We are a web team in the marketing department but everyone refers to us as the web department. It’s a great place to be because everyone wants to own us but no one except ourselves know how to manage web.

    On the other hand how do we make a business case for #1, that web needs to be a department with a budget and a director and its own staff? THAT is what we need.

  144. 144

    A lot of these points sound sadly familiar to any of us who have worked on a corporate site. The comments bear that out. Of course, none of us are likely to completely redefine how our corporate teams develop their sites. We can, though, start chiseling away at one or two of these points, in the hope of creating some quick changes. If things then start to improve, who knows… maybe it will be the extra credibility needed to initiate further changes.

    Great post, and hopefully it won’t be as true if we all read it again in a year or two from now!

  145. 145

    most orgs could benefit by focusing on the web as a stream instead of a pond. Always moving, folks need to focus on the creative communications in an ongoing endless stream.

    Wouldn’t want your web presence to dry up.

  146. 146

    This article should be required reading for all Marketing AND Product managers at companies. I guess what seems painfully obvious to us web designers is just to clear and direct for most of them… unfortunately.

  147. 147

    this is extremely helpful.
    Thank you

  148. 148

    Great article and true. But you need staff to do this well AND you need to have solid proof that you are selling more products as a result. No analystics, no staff. Without a staff, it is physically impossible for either IT or mar/com or a separate department to create and evolve a good site given all of their other responsibilities. The result of all the technorati chatter about interactive websites (plus other web 2.0 tactics) is senior management requiring them without adding either staff or money or understanding whether they will reach their audiences effectively with these tactics. It’s like saying you need a great marble statue to sell your product and assigning the quarry man to carve it. I think we need to back off on some of this and figure out how we will really reach people in their decision making processes.

    And what planet are you living on where a company will create a new department????

  149. 149

    coolwebdeveloper.com

    February 11, 2009 9:26 am

    Great article. I just forwarded to everyone on our team.

  150. 150

    Great article!

    As a developer working at BrandLogic whose client base is Fortune 500 companies we run into every single one of the truths mentioned above.

    I wanted to comment on a couple of truths.

    1. Separate web division – this has to be weighed on a case by case basis. Is the division capable of updating and maintaining their site. Do they have sound needs for a separate site or are they just looking for control of something they won’t control?

    If it is determined that a division needs a separate site then they need to work with whoever the overall company web owners are to ensure that there is a company Brand look and feel and that they are communicating in the same Brand message. If the division is to much out on their own how are customers going to tie them to the parent company?

    5. Social networking – this is an excellent way to spread your brand you message to a lot of people. The important aspect of social networking is that management needs to communicate guidelines to their employees on how to act what they can and can not talk about. These guidelines should be easily accessible and can be updated easily. At BrandLogic we offer our clients BrandEnsemble which is an internal tool for corporations to communicate how employees should present their companies brand to the world. From how to use logos to tone of voice in written communications to guidelines in the social networking space.

    9. CMS not a silver bullet – It is not a silver bullet no. We’ve done both CMS sites as well as HTML sites for our clients. In each case the training the maintainability and the initial coding are all easier with an established CMS. Our BrandEnsemble product is a CMS that was build to be flexible in setting up templates and design to meet the challenges of the content and the brand that are brought to the forefront in the initial phases of Discovery and strategy in our process with our clients. With effective planning our CMS tool is a efficient tool for our clients to use in maintaining their own site with ease.

  151. 151

    absolutely brilliant, great article!! Thx Smashing Magazine

  152. 152

    Fantastic article! Imagine my surprise when I showed up in a screenshot o.O

    I’ve since graduated from “Pixel Pusher” to “Aesthetic Engineering Asset,” however. It’s no more significant, but requires more work.

    /bookmarked for great reference

  153. 153

    @Aleks

    In item #1, Paul points to a very good article, at zeldman.com, in his post that might help in your situation. You’ll also find the zeldman article comments enriching (not just replies like “cool” and “me too”)

    Good luck!

  154. 154

    Regarding the “Design Committee” observation, I agree that there is nothing that kills website performance like speculative design. Even worse, Design Committee’s often suffer from the “HiPPO” syndrome where it’s the “HIghest Paid Persons Opinion” that drives important design decisions. User testing and focus groups are better but they are still quasi-speculative- you’re still relying on a small group of people to help design the site.

    The best way to design a site is to experiment and let your site visitors tell you what works. For example, Google runs experiments all the time to figure out the best user experience for the Google homepage.

    There are lots of website testing strategies- ranging from simple A/B/C tests to complex multivariable tests that allow you to test millions of versions to find the best one. The best part about testing is that at the end- you have statistical proof of which site design worked, which ones didn’t, and why. Tools like Google Website Optimizer, Omniture Test&Target, and Interwoven Optimost (my employer) help manage the testing process.

  155. 155

    fantastic article. So good, I just got it tattoo’d on my back.

  156. 156

    Great article!

    I’m currently in that number seven-situation. My client tells me exactly what to do and it’s really frustrating that they don’t want to utilise my expertise. “Make this less useable” is pretty much what they are saying and they won’t listen to my arguments on why that’s a bad idea.

    What to do? :P

  157. 157

    Great article Paul.

    Love the podcast too. Keeps me inspired to keep on working on new things.

    – Paul

  158. 158

    Nice Article!

    @SM TEAM – You guys need to consider changing comments layout of Your blog. It is little confusing ( picture , commenter name and content alignment, comment number repeat etc ) and hard to distinguish between two comments ( some kind of separator will be easy on eyes) , Author/Admin’s comment difference is also not there ( i guess ). Hope you got what I am trying to say here?

  159. 159

    It’s about time larger companies realize this fact. I’ve worked with some LARGE corps in the past and they usually contract me out to do the tasks that their internals should be doing. I don’t mind because I get work, but it should be up to someone internally to do the right thing for their web site.

  160. 160

    Definitely Smashing!

  161. 161

    You hit the nail on the head! Nice!

  162. 162

    best post ever.

  163. 163

    Amazing.. this is RAW truth!!!

  164. 164

    Nice recap of fundamentals. However, #1 is dangerously off base. Marketing is responsible for the brand and the conversations with the outside world.

    Marketing is the leader and responsible for all corporate communications. Strategic and effective marketers recognize that outsourcing web development, updates, and maintenance is the smart choice. Web strategy and development is not a core competency of corporations. Making and selling products and services is.

    Outsourcing is more cost effective; it eliminates harassment of developers by divisions clamoring for more; gives more flexibility (Need a new web partner as your company grows? Go get one.) And, it provides better creative as the designers will have much broader, deeper experience from working on a variety of projects. Of course, the developers work with the marketing IT experts to ensure smooth implementation and site security.

    In companies with effective and successful web sites, marketing owns and leads the web.
    Marketing makes the final decisions on content, creative, updates, etc.. And, truly smart companies eliminate web bureaucracies and higher costs by outsourcing to trusted expert partners.

  165. 165

    An interesting read is Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” – I’ve worked on large-ish corporate an educational sites and one thing that I find is that most people just want to feel some sort of ownership when it comes to their online presence.

    It’s true that there are some people who have the natural tendency to push their view or idea on web projects, but I have also found it true that many designers and web producers have an elitist view that causes them to lash out against those who are without the same expertise or experience level.

    I always try to accommodate that desire for ownership by preemptively giving resources or asking for opinions of those involved. This accomplishes several things, one of which is you can subtly define the roles of those involved while at the same time giving them resources to learn from without engaging in the “who’s the expert here?” discussions.

    The end result is a better product with better informed participants which in turn should lead to a more successful site over the course of it’s life-span.

    I realize all of the above is idealistic, but I think it’s a good starting approach.

  166. 166

    Great post. I found all aspects to be quite on point.

  167. 167

    Absolutely amazing! These are the best points I have EVER read in regards to website development.

    *clapping*

  168. 168

    I am working at a client right now that does have a web department. But there is still a turf war over who that department reports up to. Right now it is the CMO, but of course the CIO thinks it should under his domain.

    I could interpret this article as suggesting that there should also be a CWO, or chief web officer. That may make some sense at some companies, but not most small or medium businesses. I think that my vote would be for a web department to report to the marketing organization. Organizations just need to figure out how to matrix in IT personnel to make it a collaborative effort.

  169. 169

    Very nice article. But I have a question about what I deal with every customer:

    How do you make them give you the texts and pictures fast? Cause I actually have to beg them to give me what is necessary for their site… This is so annoying cause sites finish in months and I get paid after months ….Any suggestions ?

  170. 170

    Jebus F. Christ! This article is so friggin’ true. But I’d dare not pass it on to clients!

  171. 171

    excellent post.

    Are you planning a follow up with examples of companies doing it right? Not to say that what’s right for one org. would be right for everyone, but solid examples to reinforce the concepts.

  172. 172

    @158 #1 could be the basis of the next article in itself. The author is absolutely correct, the marketing department should have nothing to do with the web department.

    I’ve worked for organisations of all sizes and frequently, the marketing people I’ve encountered are knowingly overpaid, spineless dinosaurs whose field of ‘expertise’ is clumsily trying to keep up with the web phenomenon (just observe these w*nkers flailing around on Twitter) and whose qualifications are woefully irrelevant as a result. Often they are former PAs whom grateful bosses have promoted to Marketing Manager for years of loyal service, agreeing with what they said and doing a nice job managing the office redecorations. The younger, inexperienced ones are usually corporate ladder-climbing eye-candy. With too few welcome exceptions, they are often risk-averse, ignorant, uncreative cronies incapable of proposing anything even mildy contentious to the stakeholders, let alone debating aspects of a concept.

    Ideally, abolish marketing and establish separate offline and online creative communications departments and suppliers who can deal exclusively with the main stakeholders.

  173. 173

    Well, that is possibly the best article I have read in the last 12 months of Smashing Magazine! Well done guys 5/5. Extremely true, and useful stuff!

  174. 174

    Ha! That was awesome…I especially loved #8. Definitely true.

    Check my portfolio: http://www.awmcreative.com

  175. 175

    HAHAHA! You’re writing out of my soul. I’ve sent this post to my boss. Keep you fingers crossed, that I am not surfing to Smashing-Jobs tomorrow .. =:)

  176. 176

    Thanks Smashing!
    This is my everyday battle!

  177. 177

    Well done, Paul. If I ever interview for a corporate/not-for-profit job, then I now have a list of questions to ask/ponder.

  178. 178

    I can never figure out why people can’t just disagree without being so aggressive about it. So what if some – even all – of the points made have been made before? The headline of this post wasn’t ‘Ten Never-Before-Told Truths…’ And so what if it’s not really big news to us industry veterans? How much great conversation do you enjoy in your daily lives that simply covers old ground? We do it all the time; it’s the act of sharing experiences that brings us closer together. And like it or not, PART of this thing called social media is sharing and coming together.

    In any case, the post obviously struck a chord with its INTENDED audience, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many positive comments.

  179. 179

    Jeff Zeldman’s comment, “The Web is a conversation. Marketing, by contrast, is a monologue… ” is wrong or at least poor marketing. For marketing to be successful it absolutely must be a conversation.

    Marketing is charged with creating and nurturing customer relationships. Big job. Involves product design, channel management, pricing strategy, along with advertising and other promotional activities. Don’t confuse those advertising and promotional activities with marketing. It’s really a small part even though it’s the most visible.

    The internet — including websites but going beyond — is a tremendously powerful tool for marketing. It enables discussion with customer like never before. Nothing nurtures relationships like conversation — the core of marketing.

  180. 180

    That is easily the most useful post I have read all year. I will be referencing your points with my customers in the future. Thankyou.

  181. 181

    This is my first comment on this site ever, and I have been reading since 2007. I wanted to thank you for this post. This article will really help me educate my customers in the future.

  182. 182

    This is quite possibly the best post I have ever seen.

    So many of them just don’t understand why their efforts are unsuccessful once web designers deliver the product the client asked for, and this post does a fantastic job of calling the client out on their blunders.

    Terrific. I love it.

  183. 183

    Groovy! Lovely article, hits the nail right on the head. Keep up the “smashing” work!

  184. 184

    This article is being fluffed up more than Obama. Yes it is good, but to say it is the best all year is just dumb it’s only February. Send the article to people it will affect, not just people like us stuck in a job that doesn’t follow the points. Sitting around agreeing can be nice but changing minds and habit is actually productive.

  185. 185

    I agree with Abbie Kendall, number #1 is dangerously off base.

    However, as for outsourcing there can be a great number of risks run with this choice. Such as cost and quality. Sales men do a good job of telling you abc software will be the perfect thing for your company when they are often quite wrong.

    What you need is people whether internal or external who know what they are doing. In my internal “IT” department I am the web designer and UI person. Our “IT” is collective of very smart people who have a really good idea about making large corporate websites. There will always be a struggle between design and practically ie “marketing” and “IT”.

    Personally “IT” tend to have alot of smart people that have experience in analysing and solving problems which lead to innovative solutions. I think these skills are more important than trying to stuff every shining object marketing see into a website.

  186. 186

    You’re so right there, but you’re also so preaching to the choir…

    Let’s send this out to all managers we know and force them to read it.

  187. 187

    I’m right there with you on this article. At my last temp job, not only was the web management split between Marketing and IT, but there was a single full-time perm position and one temp position to generate all web content, including ad banners and e-blasts. On top of that, the Board of Directors had final say on design elements and how and what content would appear on the homepage.

    I agree with the others that #1 is off-base. It is important to unify the brand and the messages coming out of that brand. However, I think the difficulty with housing the web team under Marketing often is that the “team” becomes a single webmaster or becomes an added task for employees who do more than just the web. Rather than separating out the web team, maybe the emphasis should be on giving the web the full attention it deserves.

  188. 188

    We are in complete agreement that listening to the market and developing the various internet channels does require unique competencies and perspectives. Where we differ is the need to create a unique division to own the strategy. Marketing is definitely *not* a monologue. That’s simply a misunderstanding of what marketing “is”. It is a dynamic process of listening and engaging the market including all of the influencers that ultimately develop brands and drive revenues and profits. What’s required is that the marketing competency needs to understand the capabilities and opportunities of the media and the way that the various channels interface with the company and market. I would argue that however your marketing competencies are structured – it is the entity that sets the business objectives and creates the alignment or manages the internal or external implementation of the strategy. Companies with enough literate leaders can make appropriate decisions about how to design and implement their interactive / social media strategies without creating additional silos and make smart decisions about where the get the resources to do so.

  189. 189

    Excellent article and realistic! It is true that useing a cms often you are not so flexible, but on the other hand you can add content easily, especially people who are not so familiar with the internet (>50 years old).

  190. 190

    Great article….

  191. 191

    have a contract working as a web manager for a large corp. BUT it is semi-part time (only about 30 hours a month!) So they only ever have time for content updates, but so many of their sites are out of date design and code that makes even managing content on them more difficult.

    I’d love to do a full overhaul, get their 15+ sites all in a CMS and have another part timer on the account – but they just don’t get it.

  192. 192

    The comment about social networking reach definately the point. Social networking is a great way in many marketing aspects (not even talking about SEO techniques). I have a lot of assignments where web 2.0 solutions are wanted, but they just want it because it’s a fashion term.

    Usually it’s a bit old fashioned companies who try to renew their market position, or want to blend in the “new world”.

    I feel instead of letting others fill their website, they should rather just use a twitter account and use RSS to update their site. Minor things like “I am at a promotion party of item X. I think we will order it for our customers. “. With good software, you can let your visitors vote or reply on it.

    That’s in my opinion a very good use web 2.0 software, rather then “make my site web 2.0″.

  193. 193

    We have a web department full of talented designers and developers. But it’s still marketing and sales that call the shots. And because of this our websites will continue to under perform until our views are respected and we are allowed to do the job we are paid for.

    Great article.

  194. 194


    Do not tell him or her to change it to pink. This way, the designer has the freedom to find a solution that may even be better than your choice. You allow your designer to solve the problem you have presented.

    Now that’s an awesome hint. Thanks so much for this great article!

  195. 195

    Langston Richardson

    February 12, 2009 2:22 am

    This is quite interesting. My team had this discussion on this very article in the last day. We took off the “corporate” because this is really about websites period. I personally fight with my colleagues over insights on what is right and what works. That fighting isn’t always bad but Paul #8 is a constant in the development industry. I’ve had to make many executive decisions/professional judgments to stop the Committee Drama with internal and clients.

    Unfortunately, most if not any of the warnings/truths mentioned will ever be heeded by organizations until failing to heed these harsh lessons cost people their jobs or their company’s serious lost of business and revenue. To point #8, If the job gets done and the client is happy, the design by committee is validated and the pixel-pushing slaves some call designers who knows better from point #7 starts activities ranging from job searches to combativeness to uninspired listlessness. Indeed, design/marketing/web development/consultancy organizations begin to adopt this last internal cultural trait.

    There hasn’t been an equivalent re-ordering/cleansing in the magnitude of the Dot.com meltdown to correct Paul’s 10 Harsh Truths.

    As we’ve faced in the last bubble, organizations can get away with having bad design, design by committee, trend following facebook/youtube/twitter feeds, pixel-pushing slavery, and use-ALL-of-the-content-I-gave-you thinking that’s characterize this industry because people believe that they are getting value from the way things are. It’s a commodity.

    If our web development paradigm shifts to questioning the value gained, then our industry can correct itself.

    We’re not a point where we all agree that web development has the definitive standard of what works like we can say print and TV have. (Print’s Last two paradigm shifts were the printing press and desktop publishing. TV: Cable, HD, PPV, DVD) The web’s multitude of ways has democratized and innovate the communications space in a far reaching way… but it’s still new to people with far more players than Print and TV ever had. Some of these players in this “technoclass” shows the effects of this democracy-imposing a structured order dichotomy. What designers think isn’t the same as marketers think isn’t the same as developers think isn’t the same what clients think isn’t the same as customers and people think and experience. Measurement has brought more opinions to data gathered and not clarity.

    What we have today are the top agencies that have the best car salespeople and have organized and cohesive understandings of web strategies and have clients who also understand and have organized and cohesive understandings of web strategies can mitigate the negative consequences of Paul’s lessons. But this is not yet repeatable. History shows that we tend to have 20/20 hindsight.

    Langston Richardson
    VP, Executive Creative Director / infuz

  196. 196

    Langston Richardson

    February 12, 2009 3:06 am

    adding to the conversations about marketing = or ≠ conversations:
    While Marketing only at it’s best, is not a monologue… it is still a far cry from a conversation. Case in point: marketing outside of our circle has reputation challenges. Conversations do not.

    Marketing is looking ultimately for a ROI, however long that takes. Conversations are sharing, honestly, and expression. The web has helped with the evolution of marketing to evolve from a shatter gun broadcast the relied on repetition and push to closer to how people really think and share in all media touch points.

  197. 197

    @Langston Richardson, That’s indeed true. However, expectatons from web2.0 is far too big sometimes. The difference between say a YouTube and a company offering products is a world apart.

    The web is a magnificant tool for marketing. However, as you mentioned, it doesn’t cover all the aspects as you name them. I think that just claming any web2.0 related idea cannot succeed in a company profile without having the employees or a dedicated person giving something to talk about first. This post is not a forum, so I am not going ot debate about this now. But there are very interesting points to discuss about this subject I think.

  198. 198

    Brilliant outline of what is still an emerging division/discipline in many companies. The creation of the “web division” is necessary but delicate. It is important to give that division authority and ulitmate responsibility but make sure they are not a “island”. The web division needs to be tightly integrated into all sales and marketing efforts.so that all traditional marketing efforts are leveraged and vice versa

  199. 199

    Totally true!

  200. 200

    Great info! Bringing harmony into the web design/development process within large organizations is indeed a task that can be very challenging. It requires not just technical ability but lots of wisdom.

  201. 201

    It comforts me in this period of hight doubts about my job… I’ve been working on a project for the last 4 weeks, with this client who wants -as said in an example here- a little bit more blue, this a little bigger and that a little smaller, and so on. I can’t say much, this important client being a friend of my boss. As an art director, i feel so mad! I’ve already stated all those things to my boss, but… :)
    Anyway. Thanks for this article.

  202. 202

    Very useful article but I have to echo some of the objections made about Jeffrey Zeldman’s quote that “marketing is a monologue.” It would have been more accurate to say that “advertising is a monologue.” The misuse of these terms is way too common.

    Marketing is about building a relationship of mutual value between a marketer and a customer. Advertising is a marketing tool, as is a website. But because a website is inherently interactive, it is perhaps the most powerful marketing tool available. After all, we are human. We are social beings.

    Consistent with the point of this article – as powerful a tool that a website is, if it is poorly purposed, it has the potential to do more harm than good.

  203. 203

    I am not alone then! Great article!

  204. 204

    I think you have been working in my company…

  205. 205

    Bounce rate for my own ecommerce sites: 15.2%
    Bounce rate for the company I work for: 51%

    Why don’t they listen to me?

    :-(

  206. 206

    Awesome article Paul I really enjoyed it. To many times I have worked on projects for companies that I could use this list and just check them off one by one. Well done keep them coming.

  207. 207

    Regarding paragraph 4: target group
    I often get asnwers like this. Target group is: ALL. Many Clients want simply everybody to know, want and buy their products.
    My answer is simple but effective: All as target group is sure possible, if
    a) Your product is able to serve this target group
    b) You have the budget to run your campaign over several decades
    c) You have the production potential to deliver to all

    Take Coca Cola:
    a) they have the product – as kids regardless of culture, financial state, religion or anything else love sparkling sweet beverages
    b) they have the money and with that they run their international campaigns since decades
    c) they can deliver.

    If your product and company can do that, I am happy to get your marketing budget and do this for you.

    Mostly, that makes my clients think about what their product realisticly can do and what they can achieve with their budget.

  208. 208

    100% agree. Brilliant article, and interesting read. I work for a small business, but have many of the problems above, normally involving a director wanting control of all content. I just want to tear my hair out when she says: ‘we need more room for the text. It can go in that white space’ cry

  209. 209

    Anyone who thinks that marketing is a monologue is crap at marketing… marketing is the conversation not the website, the website is just one of many venues in which that conversation can happen. Sure have a dedicated web team within marketing, but separating just causes more problems to the integrated whole that marketing should pull together.

  210. 210

    Perhaps I am biased, working in strictly the media and analyst relations realm, but an endemic mistake that companies both large and small seem to make on their websites is not having a clear link from the company’s home page to a well stocked and consistently updated media center that contains contact information for the company’s PR folks. Ask any journalist and they’ll let you know how frustrating this can be.

    There was a fantastic blog post a few months ago that I’ve since lost track of, unfortunately, that compared the web sites of Dell and Apple in this regard. Trying to find contact information for media relations and a comprehensive media center on the Dell site was an exercise in futility, while a visit to apple.com sees a clear link to Media Info at the bottom of the page.

  211. 211

    Point 8. woot!

  212. 212

    This is the most accurate synopsis I have ever read about the battles and pitfalls of running or being involved in running a website. Well written and right on the mark. Thanks.

  213. 213

    Great article, especially about webdesigners that are geniuses etc.. ( Web designers … have a wealth of knowledge … ) ;) ;)

    Great piece !

    My new corporate website is almost done, and now the task of adding content, training etc.. has to take place, this is a valuable document to prove some of my points. ha !

    Thanx, Paul, thanx Smashing !

    grtz,
    Tom

  214. 214

    Smashing post. The design by committee and the need to please everyone confuses many and satisfies few.

  215. 215

    Thank you for this rejuvenating article! What good timing! We are currently working on redesigning our corporate website and I shared this article with our web team.
    Keep up the good stuff. Awaiting more smashing articles like this one!
    Thanks again!

  216. 216

    Easy to say all this (it’s a great post – I’m not disparaging). The problem is that the people who make these decisions remain entrenched in the same stupidity.

    The solution? Wait for the last generation to retire. If they ever do…

  217. 217

    Great post. Guiding the design process within an organization is no simple task. As was mentioned above, in a corporate environment, the broader perception of a designer is that of a “software operator” or someone who executes rather than strategizes. I don’t know what the solution is but I do know respect and trust play a major role. It takes a relentless educator and good listener to earn this.

  218. 218

    The single best post every on SM and quite possibly one of the best I ever read on the subject – Sir I tilt my hat at you for your writing and observational skills!

    I have lived these scenarios far, far to many times…….

    I almost feel like pointing all new clients to this article and getting them to signsomething saying they agree and understand points 1-10 prior to starting work for them.

    Simply awesome!

  219. 219

    221 posts!! You are a GURU!

    Thnx for the great post really helpful

  220. 220

    I hate this website,

  221. 221

    Good one….Every corporate committee should read this article.

  222. 222

    I would like to show this to my managers but afraid they may think I am out of line.

  223. 223

    This is a fantastic article. As a manager of a large, corporate-style website, I find that each of your points ring resoundingly true.

  224. 224

    I’m a manager for a state government website. Most of these points apply to us as well. All along I thought corporate web teams had it so much easier. Thanks for clearing that up … I think!

    For an interesting government counterpoint, read the recently released White Paper by the Federal Web Managers Council. “Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government”

    One of the conclusions “establish web communications as a core business function.”

  225. 225

    Man how this post rings true. This is the exact world that I live in and it pains me everyday when decisions are made without merit, thought, or reason all because a big boss “loves” a certain color or sees a design he wants to implement.

    A corporate website should NEVER be about adhering to likes and dislikes within the company…unless you plan on selling to yourselves.

  226. 226

    Paul, great article.

    Now some counter truth.

    Whatever you said is cent per cent, and above 224 comments are the proof of that. But now how do we make them believe us.
    We know these problems and we go through them but it still is a long way as how to cater with them.

    I think, it comes only when you are at the same level to them (a large company yourself) where they know that you are not only working for money but also for your reputation.

    Otherwise, we have to say yes and bow ultimately.

    Harsh truth.

  227. 227

    This is basically my career wrapped up into a top ten list.

    I disagree with the generalization of number five though. If you can market effectively on the social networks, you can foster community around your brand (with an engaging human voice behind it of course) and bring significant traffic to your site.

    An effective social networking strategy can fit quite nicely into your overall web strategy if you do it right. If it didn’t work then far fewer companies would be doing it.

  228. 228

    Great article, Paul. Smashing Mag needs more of this! The advice listed makes perfect sense and would definitely be wise to adhere to. Kudos on some seriously smashing writing!

  229. 229

    Great article Paul. You brilliantly articulated most of the issues we are facing on an ongoing basis and will use some of those points in my futures pitches and presentations (If you don’t mind).

  230. 230

    Excellent article.

  231. 231

    GREAT article. Thanks for writing that, it accurately describe our issues.

  232. 232

    #7.
    I think sometimes Administrators just want to control things and they are not able to see the value that the graphic designers or web master can provide.

  233. 233

    One of the best articles on web design I’ve read in a while. And yes, Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” is probably the most essential book for any serious web designer… it’s the cat’s pajamas!

  234. 234

    I have finally found an advocate as I sit at my desk crying over my organization’s website. I identified with very one of these points, and am actually using it as a reference to pitch a Web Division to our CTO.

    Thank you.

  235. 235

    Wow, great article. I work at a large university and I’m attuned to all of these truths, but to have them consolidated and articulated so well will help me build my case! Thanks for the great post.

  236. 236

    Thank you for writing this article!

  237. 237

    Right on the money. “design by committee” is the bane of my existence! lol

  238. 238

    Great article! Have to take some time to read all of it ;-)

  239. 239

    Wow…it’s like sm read my mind! I think this knowledge can be applied to all spectrum’s of design not just web, especially the pixel pusher part. I am forwarding it on to all my clients.

  240. 240

    Brilliant! Being a web developer, I have personally experienced 4 of these 10 points with my clients. It is insightful, I have forwarded it to my clients.

    Thanks for this!

  241. 241

    Nice article…
    Although at the end of the day, rather than assigning names to web teams or putting them under certain divisions – it would be way smarter as a corporation to employ people with the right skill sets to start with.

    I certainly don’t agree that marketing departments are better at websites. They don’t know how to code and often outsource to design agencies and end up with inaccessible websites. You get more value from a talented web designer (or web person, whatever you want to call it). You also need to consider the finances too. Marketing divisions usually spend millions on websites without getting the return on investment and rarely do they have the competency to measure the ROI!

    Marketing divisions rarely do market research, nor usability research which disgusts me. I apologize to any competent marketing people out there who do manage to do this!

    I work on a web team and recently had to assist our marketing department. I was told to make the graphic take up the entire part of the page, do this, do that, and then after acceptance they speak to one of their collegues and we go round in circles. In the end I had to push for them to move forwards with what they had already spent heaps of $$ on, and then measure whether it meets business targets… may I also add that all I was doing for them is a form? They had to have a million pointless, time consuming graphics to the site, and wouldn’t accept the fact you shouldn’t rely on graphics to convey information. No respect for the w3c guidelines whatsoever!

    I’ve just saved the company millions… but I truly think every corporation should sack their marketing department who only know about the ‘print world’ or only utilize them for print material and leave the web to the professionals!

  242. 242

    Hey! Our committe think you should move that banner ad and logo at the top of the page and make yout article appealing to a broader demographic of the populus of planet earth – after all this means a lot to them !

  243. 243

    Fantastic article. I will cherish these principles. Love the business approach and the Porter reference.

  244. 244

    Great article! Indeed corporate websites spend too much of pages talking about the company rather than the products/services they serve. The visitors are never interested reading about the company, only thing interests them is the product/service.

  245. 245

    One of the best articles… Thumbs up!

  246. 246

    Thank you for this 10 golden rules!
    It is a pity that a responsible manager or CxO will not read this.

  247. 247
  248. 248

    The Web is getting hurt in tug of war between marketing and IT is very true. Many times the managers don’t understand that good web sites is much more than a just theme of colors and graphics but most importantly about user intuitiveness.

  249. 249

    It’s about time Smashing Magazine got you on here. You have been sucking up to them for a long time on your podcast. I am glad to see they “threw a dog a bone.” Thanks for the great insights they were true, and gave me some additional ammunition when I “fight” some of these battles. Keep up the excellent work!

  250. 250

    Thank you for such a concise, well presented and accurate article. Finally a real tool useable in real life with client’s who may not understand how to market themselves. These 10 points apply just as strongly to a small company’s website. I plan on utilizing the advice time and time again. Please post more guidelines and rules that are as clear and useable as these. Great Work!!!

  251. 251

    It’s not just corporate — the SAME challenges are in non-profits … and we’re experiencing them now — EVERYONE around me right now is quoting this article and giggling. As a “pixel pusher” you are preaching to the choir. Thanks for the article!

  252. 252

    (shed tears….) Thanks for posting this out… there are many HARSH TRUTH though.. but somehow you’ve got it all summed out… i love you… thanks…

  253. 253

    Hi Client, this is the article I’ve been telling you about.

  254. 254

    I am sending this post around my office in the hope that 50% will open it, 30% will read it and at least 10% will learn from it. Fantastic article. Articulates many things i’ve been trying to get across for the past year.

  255. 255

    Terrific summary, although I disagree, sort of, with #4. Esp. for large gov’t organizations, there truly are multiple audiences *at the top level*. For example, at the US Environmental Protection Agency, we create and enforce regulations, we do science, and we teach people what they can do to protect the environment. Each of those activities has key audiences.

    So we design the home page to help direct each audience, but I agree with you that once you get to the content, you need to have a specific audience in mind. For example, there’s no reason a scientific paper must be written so middle schoolers can read it. And a document providing guidance to state regulators needn’t make sense to a firefighter.

    I’ll be tweeting this in a second.

    Jeffrey Levy
    Director of Web Communications
    US EPA

    • 256

      This is a great article. I might not have disagreed with #4 when this was first published, but a lot has changed in the landscape

      You are absolutely right that you should identify your target audience and deliver the best message for that audience, but if you can recognize that a user is in a different target audience, why not deliver relevent content for that user?

      The easiest example of this is returning users. One can deliver one set of content to users and and a different set to prospects. The look and feel of the site does not need to change drastically, but delivering the right content can mean the difference in the number of people who are influenced to convert.

      Other data can come into play for segmenting audiences and delivering content, but you want to keep it simple and accessable for all.

  256. 257

    Adam Smith - Rawnet.com

    February 19, 2009 1:10 am

    Really great post, and all so so true. One of our clients scored an impressive 10 out of 10. :)

  257. 258

    AMEN!

  258. 259

    One thing I find for a lot of company websites is that they don’t provide ‘enough’ information on certain things. I don’t get why it is so hard to tell me how much DVR is for my cable service

  259. 260

    A week ago, I quit my job as Web Manager of a major Canadian charity, mostly to pursue my own Web design business full-time, but also because I got fed up with the obstacles that you’ve so perfectly presented here. One thing I might disagree with though:

    Tools like Twitter are indeed intended for person-to-person contact, but I think the fact is that many people are using those tools to stay updated about things. You could argue that email is intended for the same purpose, and that if you want to learn when a new blog entry is posted, you should be using RSS. But offering email subscriptions as an alternative to RSS is one thing that made Feedburner successful. Power-users understand RSS, but everyone understands email.

    I think a lot of Twitter users use Twitter as a means of staying up to date on things, so I see no problem with an organization creating a Twitter account for posting upcoming events, for example. Sure it misses the point of what it was *originally* intended for, but it provides non-technical users with a means of connecting with that organization in a way that they didn’t before.

    I remember when people used their MSN Messenger handles the way we now use Twitter. Someone’s handle might be, “Jim – Trying to finish this project before Lost starts.” MSN Messenger is not for that purpose either, but people used it that way.

    I would further argue that when people only used Twitter for it’s original purpose – to tell people “What you’re doing right now” – it was mind-numbingly boring.

    So you can create new technologies with whatever purpose you want, but ultimately, the community will decide how they’ll get used.

  260. 261

    Absolutely spot on!!! It talks to the heart of those who have to manage corporate website with little or no resources. I think all of us have experienced every single one of the points raised in this article. Well done!!

  261. 262

    Corporate Designer

    February 25, 2009 11:19 am

    Brilliant, thank you for an outstanding and dead-on article :)

  262. 263

    Nice article.

  263. 264

    Okay, now that we all know this harsh truth, who’s the one to tell this truths to the customers? All this truths are so well known by anyone who works as a webdesigner. But as long as our beloved customers don’t get the point of it, we all can just sigh and say “Oh yeah, you’re so right…”

  264. 265

    This article is very descriptive of what’s going on at the small collegiate website I maintain. There is no web division. The “web person” is considered a pixel pusher and nothing more. And if you show an article like this to even the most approachable of senior staff, they will nod, sigh and act like there’s nothing they can do about it. They do not see themselves in the problem.

    I have the misfortune to be currently working for a woman who believes absolutely nothing should ever be deleted off a website even if your jerry built CMS and database (I didn’t build it!) is groaning under the strain. They see the website as a personal archive – afraid to delete even the smallest most transitory announcement about dinner at the dining hall because, oh my God, what if they need to refer to it someday?

  265. 266

    One of the most elating articles I ever read, thank you Paul.

  266. 267

    Really impressed with this article. As a web copywriter I often share designers’ woes. That said, it’s also our job to coach the client into making the whole process as smooth as possible.

  267. 268

    Great article. As a web designer in a large organisation, I often have to argue a case for a design solution with a committee of non-designers that often leads to me just giving up in the end.
    The thing that suffers is quality, innovation, and ultimately the experience of the end user, which frankly is the only person I really consider in the design process.

    But it pays the bills.

  268. 269

    theflipsidestudio

    March 9, 2009 8:00 pm

    Nice article, and it really happens.

  269. 270

    very interresting article. I learn a lot on it.

  270. 271

    So true, and a good list to follow and show any department head or prospective web client. You could add the extended list of; 11: Even with a CMS they will still post speeeling mistaeks. 12: All sections of all departments are going to need a link on the front page, cause thats what people need. 13: When I type table into google my page doesnt come up first.

  271. 272

    Very Good article. Cheers!

  272. 273

    As someone who sells, 50k plus corporate sites, I couldn’t agree more!

  273. 274

    Paul, absolutely brilliant article. This should be standard reading to all prospective companies before they embark on a comprehensive website development, before the project, and again when the project is signed off.

  274. 275

    hi Paul, i find the article extremely useful and as we just reached the test phase of our corporate website i would gladly accept your opinion on it although it is only the Hungarian version yet (but i think you will get the clue about the content as well) many thanks! test.hirekmedia.hu

  275. 276

    Inspirational!
    I have tears in my eyes.

  276. 277

    This rings very close to home. Another bad issue is programmers in the organization who don’t feel that design or aesthetic has anything to do with how useable a website is-

    This article is very good and touches base on a lot of problems with how people/companies look at web development and web design- some people still think there is an automatic button with a “no skills needed” clause that produces a successful website.

  277. 278

    Now thats a brainer! I was looking for an article which can convince my peers that a corporate website should be treated differently from other web design projects. I wrote one here now with you guys iterating the need will make my work easier. Thanks !

  278. 279

    Interesting article, i will come back to your blog soon, best regards

  279. 280

    Michael Martinez

    May 21, 2009 10:00 am

    Thinning content is the kiss of death for Web sites in search engine results. There is some good advice in the article but that one is really, really bad advice and it underscores just how little people understand the whole Web marketing experience.

    There are many different ways to promote Web sites and you cannot treat any of them badly. If you don’t respect search engine optimization enough to do it right you all but guarantee search engine results failure. You need lots of robust copy to get search visitors to come to your site.

    Of course, the copy has to be purposeful, functional, and well-managed. Just throwing words on a page isn’t a very effective strategy, either.

  280. 281

    Well i m not fully agree with your words. Because in today market Corporate website play important role in marketing of services.

  281. 282

    As a developer, point #9 about CMSs hit home. More specifically, clients often have a tendency to want a CMS that is enormously flexible and can handle a wide variety of content types and page layouts in arbitrary scenarios, but also wantit all be ridiculously simple to learn and use at the same time. They don’t understand that in the real world a complex website will require a more complex CMS, and no matter how carefully it is designed it will take time to learn. Attempts to have clients simplify the structures of their sites and eliminate redundant content is often met with resistance. Complexity begats complexity.

  282. 283

    I used to work in a marketing department that had no control over the company website, which had been outsourced. The site didn’t match our marketing materials, and we got blamed for it being ineffective. It was a mess.

    Thank you so much for this article. It hit home on so many points!

  283. 284

    Point #1. I agree totally ! Boy you get sandwiched between those two !!

  284. 285

    what i should say ? mmm…. well, you guys have wrote a complete truth about the website maintenance. I often find a ego war go between the Visuals division and Marketing division. When the traffic goes low, the marketing division intrudes, changes the website totally. They dont understand that there is a recession going on.. and many companies are cutting their expenditure.

    Sometimes the marketing division even ignore the visual division’s recommendations for best practices . At the end of the day, they end up re-inventing things thus wasting time and creating a ego war between visuals dept and Marketing..

    :-D

  285. 286

    Good general article. But whoever said that “.. marketing is a monologue…” does not understand what is does. Good marketing engages in a DIAlog with the marketplace. And that is the reason why the website should be directed by the marketing folks. That insures a unified communications approach. Of course, managing corporate web strategy is a different animal than producing a brochure and that is where many marketing departments fall down. But adding the right expertise will take care of that….

    • 287

      Werner, that’s why the marketing folks need to *be involved* in setting web direction, but they certainly should not have sole ownership of strategy. As you wrote, additional expertise is necessary.

  286. 288

    Well crafted article, with much to discuss, but I feel that some of the conclusions aren’t the optimal approach. Take #7 – Yes, non-designers can micromanage a design project to hell, but a web designer is not necessarily an expert in marketing psychology or ROI measurement. You suggest letting the designer choose a key color. Even if the usability team can prove that likely buyers click an alternative color 3 to 1? This is business, not art. If the designer proves his intuition results in more business, then over time he can earn more respect, but typically the designer is not accountable for the bottom line P&L, and thus relies on his training and instinct, rather than true measurement of results. Pages are designed for a reason, for a desired behavior from users, and it is not in the designers job typically to do the measurement and analysis of whether their design ‘worked’.

    In this day and age, with the tools we have to use, there’s no excuse for relying on opinion when measures can be taken quickly.

    Amen on 8,9,10, and let’s get a genie wish for #1.

    Rep for a good list to discuss with the team.

    @donrua

  287. 289

    interesting post, will come back here, bookmarked your site

  288. 290

    This is an excellent article. Hits the nail right on the head without being naive about how events actually play out in the real world.

  289. 291

    Excellent article.
    I would expand further on number 1 and thanks to Don’s #289 comment above. – divisions between Marketing Design and E-commerce departments, especially in luxury sector companies where preservation of the brand/image is paramount.
    E-customers like a pleasant and efficient shopping experience with customer service – it brings them back. But arrogant in-your-face design, whilst creating strong desire can simultaneously anger impatient users – hence the need to analyse the metrics and act on them. This is another old lesson that so many organisations find hard to learn.

  290. 292

    Great insights that I find difficult to fault.

    Would love to know if there are more specific harsh truths about particular industry corporate websites – the pharmaceutical industry for example?

  291. 293

    Very nicely written. The words I hate to hear most from clients “Really great work you’ve done. Now I’ll just get my family and friends to go over it and see what changes they think need to be made”. And one corporate site made years ago left the design decisions up to their Financial Controller because he held the highest position in the department responsible for implementing the website….Times New Roman was the preferred font…say no more.

  292. 294

    I was hired as web manager at Dean & DeLuca when they decided to refresh their site for the first time in 10 years. There was a committee of 18 people trying to make the decisions. None of which had even the most basic of web experience. It was the first site that the graphic designer of record had ever done. The designer didn’t understand why the web pages didn’t look exactly the same as they did in Illustrator. 6 point type and all. I think that would be #11. Corporations think their internal print artists with no web experience will produce good web results.

  293. 295

    I just want to tell you that your blog is very interesting, bookmarked

  294. 296

    Thank you :) absolutely BRILLIANT article …

  295. 297

    as a cio who has been forced into and out of managing websites for more than 10 years, your 10 harsh realities list is superb. tanks! .

  296. 298

    Paul, superb article. Not only well written but the points made speak only the truth. Many clients see us as the extension of their minds without allowing us, who they have hired, to fly.

  297. 299

    Thank you SO much for this article. You have NO idea how appropriate this is to me at the moment, especially the “design by committee” bit! Haha, that brought a smile to my face.

  298. 300

    Amazing Corporate Designs.

  299. 301

    Absolutely gutting to read, simply because it’s so true.

  300. 302

    Thanks a lot for this well written article.

  301. 303

    Nice article. This is not only explaning the truths. At the same time it explains the painful job of compromising everyone while designing for large organisations.

    Nice post Mr.Paul Boag

  302. 304

    Paul, It’s really great work…!! Very Inspiring. U made it Crystal Clear.

  303. 305

    You have a great site here!Now i am your reader.

  304. 306

    Thank you for this news, I was searching something similar the past week.

  305. 307

    The post is really his tears as a designer, because me too experiencing this kind of problems from my clients.. but after reading this I hope that every designer is experiencing the same…….. ” Don’t worry guys someday we may get reward for these tears in someway……”

  306. 308

    Thats the way of the world… I wonder, if all these suggestions are falling into deaf ears.
    Cant do much but can keep the fingers crossed.

  307. 309

    Wow Paul, this is a truly excellent post. I wish all clients were as informed!

  308. 310

    This is so true..However i couldnt agree on the no 5. You re wasting money on social networking. My company just implement the method for only 3 month and we already see a huge difference. Before this all of our staff try to tweet and talking about our business using personal details but seems llike they are not interested until we decide that using corporate/bran name might give better impact…n yes it does

  309. 311
  310. 312

    I really like #7 about not getting value from your web team. I have clients that will add this and take this out and I’m left designing a site completely different from the original proposal. It’s ridiculous. I guess this also has to do with the design buy committee one also. When they start getting input from partners and other people it just becomes a big confusing mess and is really hard to deal with. Thanks for the post. A lot of great points.

  311. 313

    This article surely got me. I think we are hitting 7 of the 10 above points. Our CEO manages our web site, and refuses to outsource. Anyone has a great tip how to convince him..?

  312. 314

    Thank you for sharing this article, lots of great points, bookmarked.

  313. 315

    In large organizations, design-by-committee is often difficult to avoid. As a web project manager, I have found the best way to break through the design approval process is to: 1) Get each customer around a table or on a conference call and gather the minimum requirements from each one. 2) Give the developer the requirements to create ONE layout, then 3) present the layout to the committee, identifying each of the requirements that have been met, then asking each customer if they love, like, can live with or can’t live with the design to move forward. If the vast majority is in the love or like category, you’re done. If there are no love or likes but everyone is in the “can live with” category, then you might want to get feedback on how the design could be improved. If anyone can’t live with the design, ask them to give specifics on how that relates to the requirements they provided. Best of luck!

  314. 316

    Hi
    This post made me feel kind of sympathy. Because I can see others are encountering these kinds of issues ( like 4,6,8 ) too.
    Are we just pixel pushers ? !!!

  315. 317

    Excellent feedback for my company’s underestimated web project. We can know understand why our web project still taking extra time for its completion. What I haven’t really noticed is the “written proposal content” or any other documents provided from the developer to the client. At what point should the client require certain written documents from the web developer? Great info.

  316. 318

    Creative by committee kills EVERYTHING. I wish the peanut gallery within one’s company would just hush and let the experts do their job. I don’t go around telling them how to do theirs.

  317. 319

    This is gold, thank you

  318. 320

    Some years later and this article is still so real ! Thanks for posting.

  319. 321

    What is the recommended structure for a large franchise site with specific locations in many states? subdomains? subfolders? Im leaning towards separate domains for each state and a link to all of them on the corporate site, but could use feedback.

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