The Web is a Jerry Rigged Kludge
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We've all run into the website from hell, and a lot of times it's an important company like a bank or utility company. You can't figure out the navigation, you search the help pages and they talk about things that don't even exist, you get halfway through filling out the required information and suddenly find yourself kicked out of the system or trapped in an endless loop of screens... And you yell at the screen, "Who the hell builds a piece of shit like this?!?"
Everybody builds that piece of shit.
I say "everybody" because it's the programmer, the graphic designer, the marketing guy, the operations manager, the CEO, the hardware vendor, the admin assistant's cousin's daughter's boyfriend... Everybody gets their 2 cents in, and that pile of pennies turns into a pile of crap really fast. And that's just when building the site.
But let's pretend for a moment that the project followed the specification perfectly and a beautiful, functional web application hits the Internet. A couple months later something changes and a programmer is told to add a feature. The system wasn't really designed for this feature, but being a good problem solver, he opens the hood, finds a place he can bolt on the functionality, maybe gets a graphic designer to give it a nice paint job, and everything's good.
Then they do it again. And again. And again. Sometimes it's small additions, sometimes it takes huge modifications. And at the end of the day you end up with The Site From Hell, a Frankenstein's monster of add-ons, changes, and ideas that were really important for about 10 minutes in a board meeting a year ago.
Obviously not all web projects are run like this, but you'd be amazed at the size and sophistication of companies that do run their projects "on the fly." I've been invited into more than one company to tell them what they should do to fix their web issues, and the answer is almost always to throw it away and start over.
But even starting over is tough for these companies. The reason their web application got so screwed up in the first place is because their management is so screwed up. They assign someone, sometimes the head of marketing, sometimes the IT guy (who is often not the head of anything), sometimes a administrator who just got the job of "fixing our web site" but almost never a committee of department heads who are directly affected by the impact of the web.
A primary point of contact is one thing, a "decider" is important... but one person can't know all the ways the web needs to interact with an entire company. So the design specification is often missing something critical, and the process begins again.
I'll say it again -- the web is not your bastard stepchild. It IS your business. It's the first thing your prospects see, and it's the place that your customers want to go to interact with you. I don't care if you work in a broom closet, your website should imply greatness, and it should follow through with that greatness.
Otherwise your whole company is a jerry-rigged kludge.
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Be sure to see my blog over at Cloudenity. This week's topic:
The Physical Impossibility of Migrating to the Cloud