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The Horror Of Website Design By Committee

August 03, 2016

Scene 1

PROJECT MANAGER

Let’s discuss the overall design of the new home page, which you see on the screen there. What does everybody think?

[Everyone starts talking at once.]

PROJECT MANAGER

OK. OK. One at a time. Jerry, let’s start with you and go around the room.

DIRECTOR OF SALES

Too soft. We should show more product images instead of wasting all of that white space. I look at this page; I can’t figure out what we’re selling.

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

I don’t know … it looks elegant to me. Very consistent with our brand image. Actually, I think it would be better if we got rid of that big block of copy. Having no words at all on the home page would be really different, really cutting-edge! And we should make the logo bigger. Much bigger.

PROJECT MANAGER

Keep in mind we need the copy for SEO. The reason we’re re-doing the site is to get more traffic and leads.

DIRECTOR OF IT

We have to make the tech support phone number much, much bigger. Customers with problems need to know how to reach us directly.

DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES

Yes! And we need a bigger phone number for our new Employee Benefits Hotline. The home page would be a terrific way to promote it. Our department would love it! I’d like to see a block of text under the header image describing how it all works.

CFO

And while we’re at it, we need to have a few legal disclaimers and some compliance language added to the page. I’ll get you the exact wording from Legal.

CEO

Let’s do the home page with white ink on a black background. My daughter showed me something like that last night on one of her shopping websites. Very powerful. Compelling. We should make the fonts smaller, too, to squeeze more stuff up higher on the page.

PROJECT MANAGER

OK, thanks for the input, everybody. We’ll take this back to the design team and have another go at it. When is everyone available for a second look?

[Much muttering and looking at calendars.]

Scene 2

PROJECT MANAGER

OK, I will schedule the next meeting six weeks from today. Let’s talk about the content for a few minutes. Did everybody have a chance to read the Word document with the new service page content? How did it look?

DIRECTOR OF SALES

Too short! We talked about hardly any of the details of our service options. All we did was mention a few major benefits.

PROJECT MANAGER

Keep in mind, Jerry, we are only trying to get visitors to phone in. We want the new site to generate leads, not replace the sales department.

[Chuckling.]

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

Yeah! I like what you just said. We don’t need all that copy, unless it’s for that SOE thing. Anyway, our new logo speaks for itself. If we just made the logo really big and had a line or two of cutting-edge copy, the phones would ring off the hook. I’m sure of it.

PROJECT MANAGER

Interesting. Do you have any campaign data to support that?

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

Not really.

DIRECTOR OF IT

I don’t think the copy has enough factual information. Benefits are fine, but we have all kinds of statistics and charts and historical data that should be incorporated into these pages.

PROJECT MANAGER

Do you think prospects would be interested in reading all of that?

DIRECTOR OF IT

I don’t know, but the department has spent months formatting our new reports and the team is going to be quite disappointed if none of the information gets into the new site.

DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES

I didn’t have time to read the document, but it’s very important for the tone to be warm and welcoming.

CFO

I have to disagree. I did read the document, and the style definitely needs to be changed. We need a formal, businesslike tone. This copy sounds like we’re talking to people on a phone call or at a social event.

PROJECT MANAGER

A lot of data indicates a more personal style is more effective in getting website visitors to convert.

CFO

[Sniffs.] Well, I suppose if visitors don’t like the way we present ourselves, they shouldn’t do business with us.

CEO

Let’s compromise. We’ll do a rotation — one page with two sentences, one page with lots of benefits, one page with lots of data, one page written informally, one page written formally, etc. And I will email you a list of 10 items about company history I want added to each page. The writer can figure out how to phrase everything. *

PROJECT MANAGER

OK, I’m a little concerned all this variation will confuse visitors and make us appear erratic, but I’ll go over it with the writer and take a second run at it. We’ll discuss again in six weeks. Thanks, everybody.

[Fade out.]

* Excerpt from the local newspaper: “A writer was found dead in his apartment early this morning, the result of a self-inflicted bullet wound. There was no suicide note, but investigators report that he was clutching a Word document with numerous Track Changes. Investigators are baffled as to its meaning.”

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