Whatever we do, we can’t be sure that things will work perfectly and we will make mistakes, eventually. The nature and the magnitude of those mistakes depend on the capacity and size of your business. As your company grows, mistake can become more frequent as you may involve more people and the business process is becoming more complex. If you often work with large organizations, such as corporations, universities and public charities, you may notice a number of recurring challenges. These are things that may disrupt the smooth running of your company’s website:
- IT and marketing department can’t handle the website well
- Managing a large website is a full time job
- Periodic redesigns are not performed adequately
- The website lacks a focus
- Spending too much on social networking
- The website only appeals to corporate executives
- The web team is ineffective
- The web committee don’t work well
- Excessive reliance on CMS-based system
In large companies, websites is managed largely by the IT department supported by the marketing department, or the other way around. However, in some cases, a turf war between these two departments may happen, as the result, the website will become the hapless victim of internal conflicts. In reality, running a huge, high-traffic website owned by a large corporate is not really suited to both departments. IT may be good in managing and troubleshooting a complex system, but it may not be well suited in establishing an online brand or developing a user-friendly interface.
Marketing is a monologue; by contrast a modern website is a dialogue and all about an interaction. Obviously, we can’t expect the marketing department to adequately work with HTML run through, CSS, semantic markup and things that are not included in the marketing department’s job description. A large website should be handled by a unified team. It should be able to do what both the IT and the marketing department can do and more. For example, the team should handle SEO effectively, one thing that IT and marketing may not be able to do well.
Often, the company website is not only split between IT and marketing, it may also be under-resourced. Because IT department needs to ensure the internal information system to work properly and the marketing department needs to ensure that real-world marketing campaign to work effectively, they may consider the website as a “side job”. In many cases, both departments are already overstretched and can only allocate a few personnel and a little resource for the website. Most of the time, they only perform routine maintenance instead of planning long-term strategy.
The situation can become more serious because people assigned for the website are usually junior staffs. They don’t have the authority and the experience to perform innovative improvements and push everything forward. As your company grows, you should consider forming a full-time Web team that is led by senior and experienced members.
Because many websites are understaffed and under-resourced, negligence is unavoidable. After only minor redesigns are performed over the years, these websites gradually become obsolete with their technology, design and content. Eventually, things can become so embarrassing that the top executives ask all related departments to sort things out. As the result, an expensive and complete redesign project may be needed. It is certainly a flawed approach and a waste of money, because the old website must be replaced completely. Earlier investment put into the website is completely lost and the company needs to spend significantly to build a new one.
It’s better to allocate enough investment periodically, so it will evolve over time. This will be both a huge time-saver and money-saver.
Many times, when the business owners are asked about the ideal target audience, web developers are shocked by the reply. They often make a long list of people that they want to reach. And when they are asked to set a list priority, they insist that all target groups are equal. Unfortunately, when you plan to develop a website that works everyone, it will appeal no one. You should cater your website to a limited target audience, but it doesn’t mean that you need to ignore others completely. You should still invite everyone, but prioritize your design and content to specific individuals.
Of course, it’s encouraging to see that executives are using social networking as a part of Web strategy. They begin to use services such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr to engage new audience. However, often they do so improperly and ineffectively. Posting promotion videos on YouTube and Tweeting a corporate account miss the principles of social networking.
Social networking is all about engaging with ordinary people. They don’t want to build a relationship with corporations and brands. They simply want to communicate with other ordinary people. So many large businesses throw away money into viral videos and Facebook apps when they could better spend it on engaging with people more openly and transparently. It is often better to encourage employees to start blogging and tweeting themselves, however you should provide proper guidelines on acceptable online conducts. This will expose the human side and demonstrate the commitment of a corporate.
While some websites can effectively appeal their audiences, others tend to only appeal top executives. As the result, a surprising number of companies base their websites completely on an organizational perspective and ignore their users, as the result. This usually manifest in poor design that caters only to top executives personal preferences, which contains hard-to-understand jargons. A website should meet the users’ needs, instead of pandering to the preferences of certain senior staffs. Too many wonderful designs are thrown away simply because someone at the top “doesn’t like blue”!
Whether they hire an external agency or have an in-house team, many companies are unable to get enough from the team. Web team is much more than a bunch of pixel pushers. Most of the time, the staff understands about the importance of design technique, including color theory, white space, grid system and others. But unfortunately, treating web team as pixel pushers will only waste their skill and experience. Top executives shouldn’t micro-manage the website for example by asking to make the logo bigger. Controlling the web team too much may disrupt their working process and negate their wealth of knowledge and experience. Web team is a problem solver, so give it problems to solve not solutions. This way you can get the most of your web team.
Organizations often form a committee before a major web project is started. It is needed to tackle the characteristics of internal politic, which demand that all considerations are taken into account and everybody must have a say. A Web committee is not necessarily a bad thing and trying to develop a large website without enough consultation is certainly a bad thing.
Web design, for example, is a subjective matter and it can be influenced by childhood experience, age, gender culture and even physical impairments, such as color blindness. What one group of people considers as an awful design could be adored by others. Unfortunately, when a committee is involved in the web development project, personal preferences can be more dominant than considerations taken from actual user testing.
Web development project performed by a committee should prioritize on compromise and because each committee member has different opinions, they may try to seek for a common ground. One group may love a site that is dominated by black, while another wants a minimalist white-dominated site. As the result, the committee tends to instruct them to find “something in between”, so they can arrive to a workable middle ground. Unfortunately, middle grounds often lead to bland design that neither excites nor appeals anyone.
Many senior executives have unrealistic expectations on CMS, thinking that it would solve all their website-related woes. Of course, there are many benefits of CMS for businesses, including:
- * Allowing for easier content management
- * Reducing technical barriers of managing and controlling a site
- * Facilitating faster updates
However, many CMS are not flexible enough in accommodating company’s requirements due to the changing demands. As the result, Web team may complain that CMS is not suitable for business operation. For example, CMS handles complex database and e-commerce operations poorly. In addition, because internal processes are not reliable enough to support content production, CMS-based corporate sites may be poorly written or out-of-date. If you think that CMS can solve your website maintenance problems, you’ll be disappointed.
Some corporate websites have too many contents. Over the years, no one reviews the content production or existing contents. Corporate websites can be crammed full with contents because:
- * Top executives think that they may something: They believe that by putting everything into the site, the users can get everything they want. However, due to poor implementation of content management, it’s getting hard for users to find anything.
- * Top executives think that users may not understand: This could stem from the lack of confidence in their audience or in their website. They believe that it is necessary to provide an endless stream of information to users. Unfortunately, because the information is unappealing, very few read this copy.
- * Top executives want to convince: They’re desperate to communicate their message and sell their product; consequently they bloat the site with plenty of sales copy, which conveys very little valuable information.
In general, large companies do plenty of things right in managing and running their websites. However, unlike smaller organizations they need to deal with some difficult, unique challenges that may cause painful mistakes. It is necessary to accept and admit a mistake before resolving it. These organizations may also need to change the way they control their brand and overcome unhealthy internal politics. Doing so will give them a huge competitive edge and allow them to plan a more effective long-term online strategy.