First, “suck” is too strong a word. The original goal when we developed our site 3 years ago was to show what we do rather than try to describe what we do with fancy marketing copy. The site certainly does that – we often hear:
“I went to your website and instantly understood what an RIA is and how you guys were different”
Ironically, we’ve even been asked, by several very large software companies, to license our tile navigation components for their own use.
I’m certainly not trying to defend the user friendliness of site – it certainly suffers from usability issues and it can be a bit challenging to fully navigate all the content we have up there. But I don’t think it is a necessarily a clear example of a Flashtastrophe (as claimed here) . I think you either love it or hate it.
So, how did a self-proclaimed, user experience agency wind up with a site that has challenges?
Wrong Tool For the Job
Our initial objective for our website to show what we do. That meant we had to come up with a flash-based, “RIA” solution. However, HTML is often the better tool to create a marketing website. We preach to our clients “just because you can, does not mean you should” and our site is a direct contradiction to that philosophy. We were stuck between 2 opposing business objectives.
Plumber’s Sink Syndrome (aka cobbler’s shoes)
As we’ve grown our company the last 2 years, our website has always been something we’ve wanted to re-address. We’ve continued to hire amazing design talent, telling ourselves that we’d put these great experience designers to work on our own site. However, the demand for our services has been larger than we could have ever hired for, and our own marketing initiatives have had to suffer. Trust me when I tell you that Rebecca (our former CMO and now CEO) and Chris (our director of marketing) have been begging for time from our design talent. Just as a great plumber has no time to fix their own sink, we have had no time to properly focus on our own site
The people at EffectiveUI (as you could imagine) all have very strong opinions on what our site should be. People passionately dislike the current site. In fact – we use our website as an interview question for designers and developers. We ask “so, what do you think of our site?” – If we hear “I love it”, it almost always excludes that person from being a great fit. Once we had an interviewee say “EffectiveUI my ASS!” – although he didn’t have the skills we were looking for, he certainly had the right hutzpah. These passionate opinions have made it difficult for us to get consensus on what the site should be. The team is all a little too close to our company and what “they” want from the site – it is VERY difficult to take the proper, objective view of the site’s goals when its your own site. I believe this is the reason why most other interactive agencies’ websites suck as well :)
Outsourcing was not an option
If we did not have the time or the objectivity internally, why didn’t we outsource it? We debated this for quite some time actually. Outsourcing is the logical choice. It allows us to focus on our customers and brings in an objective third party to help us drive consensus across the organization. But, to be blunt, we were worried about the negative PR we would receive if it ever got out that we outsourced our own website. We ultimately decided that we had to figure out a way to do it internally.
Once we started treating our website re-design as though it were client driven, rather than an internal project, we started to see some great progress.
No excuses – I know that the site needs work, and that we have let it go for far too long. But cut us a little slack, the rest of our portfolio is pretty awesome :)