Web sites gone wild

I visited two Web sites this morning that illustrate perfectly two problems that I write about frequently:

  • The tyranny of IT departments.
  • The tyranny of Web design firms

The first site I visited was a well-known educational software publishing house. I wanted to order a typing program for one of my kids. For the second time in the past six weeks, I went through the entire order process, only to have the final "procesing your order" screen sit there and grind away without ever finishing the order. I had tried to place an order back in July with the same results.

I picked up the phone and got a nice salesperson who took my order, but I added another item, and she had to put me on hold because her internal company sales system would not show the item. She first had to look on the Web to establish what the product was, and then had to go ask someone how to enter the missing product into the system. She also admitted that the company knew the Web site did not work; "they are working on it," she told me.

It's almost beyond belief. The Web site ordering process has been broken for at least six weeks? This is pretty simple stuff these days. Even more unbelievable is that the in-house system can't even show all their products, and they probably have less than a hundred total. Here's an idea--give your ordering folks a piece of paper with the product names and numbers on it so they don't have to waste time looking on the Web site for it.

This is tyranny of the IT department in its purest form. Everyone in that department should be fired--they are costing the company untold amounts of revenue while they fiddle around with their software. The only possible explanation is "IT bullies;" the IT folks have completely flummoxed the company with jargon, arcane technical mumbo-jumbo, and IT fiddle-faddle. The IT department is running the company, with disastrous results. The IT department serves the company, not the other way around. Companies do not exist to provide full employment and ever-increasing budgets to the IT staff, but many IT departments have managed to pull this off.

The second site I visited was for a political candidate running for a statewide office. I found a perfect example of tyranny of the Web design company. They had designed a perfectly hideous site that did a wonderful job of showing off all their bandwidth-wasting splash screens, their bag of cute Web tricks, and their complete lack of attention to actual content and ease of navigation. It will probably help them get the next job, but it sure won't help that candidate get elected.

If you are going to spend money on IT and/or a Web site, make sure you get your requirements and needs down on paper (get help with this if you need it), and don't rely entirely on the IT/Web folks to tell you what you need. They often don't take the time to find out. IT and Web designers tend to want to sell solutions--it's much quicker than actually taking the time to find out what it is you do and how IT or the Web can support your core mission. Disclaimer: Design Nine helps you write specifications for IT systems and Web sites so that you get systems that work for affordable costs.

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