Companies spend megabucks on beautiful, well-designed web sites that end up losing customers, thanks to technical decisions made by the designers and programmers. Is some consulting firm’s junior programmer really the one you want making your strategic customer acquisition and retention decisions? With a little understanding of the interplay between technology and customer experience, you can start engaging your web developers in supporting your business with smart technical decisions.
- What causes the problem?
- Why do people make the decisions to include possibly destructive technologies?
- What are some easy things to look for on my own site?
- What is the business question I should be asking?
- How can I keep this from being a problem?
The problem is that the world is diverse.
So why do these technologies end up in web pages?
Flash sells. Look at any television commercial. When a designer is pitching a site laden with cool stuff, the management reviewers like it. It’s jazzy. It’s cool. It’s like a high-end ad. And that’s the wrong criteria to be using to design your web site.
Customers don’t care much about cool looking sites. They care about sites that get them the information or products they want. Yahoo is the most popular site on the web. It uses no fancy features, and it’s downright ugly. But it gets people what they came for. And that’s a much harder outcome for a graphic designer to pitch.
The programmers push the leading-edge technology, too. Take it from an ex-programmer: web siteeven large database driven sitesrequire very, very basic programming, if any at all. The latest version of Quicken is about 10,000 times more sophisticated than 99% of the commerce sites in existence.
Here are some places in your site to dig to find out if you’re using these technologies:
3. If you use Java, you’ll lose everyone who keeps Java disabled for security reasons.
4. Do you use layers or style sheets? Many sites do. They make some aspects of site creation much easier. They also tend to break in various browsers and look awful. Modern tools like Dreamweaver give a designer everything they need to create a consistent look and feel in basic HTML that works in all browsers. If your designers simply must use style sheets or layers, test the site in a wide range of browsers to make sure it looks decent across the board.
(And note that your designers will point out how convenient style sheets are, since you can revamp the whole look of the site by changing just the style sheet. But balance that against the increased testing and QA costs of making sure the style sheet solution works everywhere your customers are.)
The business question to be asking
The decision to include these technologies in a site is simple, when approached in business terms:
There are certainly times when the extra technology helps. A highly-technical web-delivered product probably requires advanced technology by virtue of the kind of product it is. But most sites simply don’t.
What’s the solution?