What does your website say about your company?

It is a truism that people draw conclusions about you simply by looking at the car you drive.  People may think different things about the same person depending upon if they are seen driving a sports car or a saloon, an executive mobile or a hot hatch.  The car you drive may be used to judge your personality, and could be a giveaway that you are single or that you are married with children.  All manner of things, rightly or wrongly, are inferred about you simply by sizing up your car.  Could the same not be said about the website a company has?

There are many different types of web sites.  There is the flash extravaganza, the minimalist statement, the portal, the social network, and a plethora of others and even variations and extensions on those themes besides.  Like a choice of car, they all make statements. Some intentional, others less so.

It is very unlikely that anyone would undertake to build their own car from scratch.  We have no problem in recognising that building a new car takes design and engineering knowledge coupled with experience, planning and development expertise, and a professional infrastructure that is tooled up to meet the demands of car production – even for a one off car.  And yet, when it comes to web design, many organisations think that they can just get by.  Perhaps they use some free software, and maybe a sprinkling of those professional pictures that have been shot for the corporate brochure that they just had professionally produced by print designers. The reality is that the result of this kind of thought process, far more often than not, will be a web site which does not express the right things about the company that it represents.

Typically, SMEs are the most likely to take this route, in an entirely understandable – though misguided – attempt to save money.  But I’ve known even cash-rich organisations attempt this short-cut to success, particularly if it is the first web site that the company has produced.  Now, I’m not saying that it isn’t possible for an untrained and inexperienced individual to design and build a great car (or web site), but clearly, the odds are against them.  To start with, it will likely take them longer to build because they will find that they don’t have the right tools or experience to do the job.  They will make mistakes along the way (and very probably become another casualty of the browser wars) that a professional would avoid through knowledge and experience.

No doubt that amateur corporate web designers will learn new and interesting things.  Web – and I assume car – design can be a very interactive and fluid process, and it is possible to get deeply passionate about it. But the time spent learning about web design will be time not spent looking after clients.  A double whammy, then.  And after all that time has been spent the web site produced is unlikely to project the right image.

And that’s putting it mildly.

It is improbable, then, that an organisation which does not make use of professional web design and development expertise will have much success in selling products and services on the web.  Sure, it can be done.  But just like car design, examples of great web sites which work and were built by amateurs are very few and far between.

A web site – or car – that is produced by an amateur, will very likely look and/or behave amateurish, and that is not the image that any organisation wants to sell.  It is the equivalent of turning up to an exclusive black tie event in a clapped out 20 year old banger with bald tyres and which bellows black smoke and emits loud bangs from its exhaust.  I wouldn’t do it, and neither would you, but for some reason organisations think that it is fine to do this on the web.

Building your own car – or web site – can be an admirable achievement.  There is nothing quite like stepping back, scratching your chin, and saying “I did that”.  But if the end product doesn’t do what you need it to do, in terms of image, reliability and quality of craftsmanship, I hate to say this, but you have in fact wasted your time.  And money.

Not seeking professional help and advice (which needn’t be prohibitively expensive in the first place) when it comes to web design and development is a false economy, and sends the wrong signals about an organisation to everybody who visits its online presence.

Take a look at your organisational web site, then, and ask yourself, honestly, what does it say about your company?

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