Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Corporate Websites Suck

Yes, plain and simple, no two ways about it.  More often than not – in an attempt to appear fresh, new and pertinent – large corporations invest countless hours in a “redesign” of  their web portal.  Of course, when all they have done is move content around (randomly for the most part) and maintained the same look & feel all they manage to do is frustrate their existing customer base.  Imagine going to the neighborhood grocery this week only to discover that all the aisles have been shifted around and rearranged.  That’s exactly what most web site redesigns amount to.  When everything appears the same you shouldn’t have to spend time learning the new location of the information that you are accustomed to accessing.  Among the sites I frequent on a regular basis Verizon Wireless is the king of this methodology.
The next type of corporate site re-design appears to be for the sole purpose of obfuscating pertinent data.  Take the previous example and layer on new graphics and navigation along with the data shuffle.  For some reason there is a school of thought that says you must roll out a new website on a regular schedule in order to maintain shareholder value.  I’ve got an IBM ThinkPad that I purchased in late 2004 that is reliable and still covered by an extended warranty.  A few months after I purchased it the “red pixel disease” infected it – no problem, a couple of clicks on the website and I had an RMA number and a call tag was issued.  A few weeks ago the DVD drive went south.  “No Problem” says I – a few clicks and all will be taken care of – NOT!  After following multiple circular links I FINALLY discover a phone number.  When I convince the person on the other end of the line (thankfully a language barrier was not involved) that my degree in Computer Science makes me a reasonably qualified troubleshooter he manages to click here and there a few times and get a replacement on the way.  Note that a repair valued at hundreds of dollars was easier to handle than a repair valued at less than one hundred dollars, and the customer was frustrated in the process.
Freshen products, don’t frustrate customers – that should be the new mantra for all corporate sites.  People like comfort, and if your site changes on a regular basis just because your web team needs to look like they’re doing something then you have a dysfunction within your organization that demands attention.   Web teams should strive to perfect the web site they have – not strive to constantly reinvent and introduce a new set of problems that need fixing.

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