At Hammock, we’re currently re-thinking the design, content — even the role — of our company’s primary website.
That’s not unusual. We’ve been rethinking it constantly since we first launched it in 1995.
I used to think a website — the design and structure part — should last for a couple of years. While I’ve always thought the content should constantly change, I thought the “look” and “feel” should stay fairly constant. Such a personal bias can be seen in my 10-year-old blog. Despite undergoing three or four significant re-designs and three changes in content management systems, even a regular reader would be hard-pressed to point out anything that has changed about the design of RexBlog. Being subtle with the changes sometimes is more difficult than a major overhaul.
I’ve also always believed (and still do) that different people visit a site for different reasons and a company should make the site’s navigation flexible enough for any of those reasons to be satisfied. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered over the years that no matter how flexible you make a site, it won’t work for everyone. So you keep trying.
Today, we’ve thrown out the two-year rule. Today, we accept the reality that a company’s website design and structure should be constantly reconsidered. Things change — rapidly. And the need to have a website change along with new ways people use the web should be a part of your approach to maintaining the site.
And so, we’re in the midst of re-thinking what our website should be.
In the New York Times Magazine this week, writer Virginia Hefferman takes a tour of several corporate websites; a tour that may make you smile or cringe, depending on how long it’s been since you’ve updated your corporate website — or what it said, after you did.
“There’s a lesson in this tour. Web sites should update or shut down; the ones that hang around collecting cobwebs have an almost frightening, hollow-eyed quality. If your plans change, you should note the revision publicly, and manifest confidence online. If you hit a losing streak or your plans crumble…you should close up Web shop as soon as possible — and maybe keep to yourself for a while.”
While the history-lover in me thinks we should preserve web history (thank heavens there’s at least archive.org), I agree with Virginia’s premise.
A corporate website is not like print: It’s a living medium that people expect to be up-to-date and accurate. People also expect for it to be honest and straightforward.
I believe customers want to hear directly from the companies they support with their purchases. I believe the web offers companies a unique ability to speak directly with customers and not have to depend on the filter of traditional media to reach them.
But customers (and we are all customers, so you’ll know what I mean) will only trust communications from companies they believe are honest and accurate.
Today, all companies have the amazing opportunity to be media companies — to create and share content that connects directly with their customers. But they also face a greater risk of communicating more poorly than ever before.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to connect directly with customers takes having a website that can serve you well, no matter what the situation. And that takes having a website someone is always re-thinking.