Would You Operate On Your Own Brain?
Internet Surgery For Technicians
If you were the best brain surgeon in the world, would you take a
scalpel to your own head? Didn't think so. Even though as a surgeon you
might possess the knowledge, skills, and technical expertise, it seems
obvious you probably wouldn't do it. As you'll see, I am using hyperbole
to make a point.
Let's talk about the effectiveness of your Web site as a marketing
tool. The use of graphics must be balanced with the amount of text
presented, while providing an experience in which you can -- to some
extent -- control your visitors' paths through your site. With brain
surgery in mind, why do so many technology companies continue to believe
that they can "operate" on their own corporate Web site?
Time and time again, I run into situations where I hear comments like,
"We have technical people in-house who can handle our site," or,
"We've got programmers who can put up our pages." Have these
words crossed your lips? These are the statements of those focused mainly
on operability. Yet operability alone doesn't make a great site. You need
to combine three key elements for the most practical and profitable Web
presence: design, usability, and operability.
The Combination Lock On Success For Your Site
Chris Bryce, founder of DotFusion.com,
is an expert in the area of combining design with usability and
operability. He defines the most important factors of graphic design in
- Communication: Good graphic design is about communication
first. We are living in an "over-communicated world." We
must use media that not only distinguishes our organization, but that
quickly communicates its many messages well.
- Image: Design must try to reinforce a positive image -- or
strengthen a weak one -- or the void will be filled by the
- Cost: Design costs are essentially related to the value of
time spent working out a visual problem. The difference between
inexpensive and expensive design is the value of the time expended.
This is a direct function of how much talent, training, and experience
it encompasses. The design costs on all but the smallest of projects
are a fraction of the total job costs. The media or technology is
usually the largest cost.
- Flexibility: We can now repurpose design for a variety of
information and technology channels. New technologies are bringing
design costs down and providing a variety of ways for clients and
design teams to integrate, saving time and costs while still affording
When it comes to usability versus operability, Bryce offers the
Usability is about a user-friendliness combined with "interface
intuition," the visual prompts and notions that guide a user toward
information they want or info you want them to see.
Operability is the back-end functionality, speed and features. This
is the structure of the dynamic components of a Web site. This is
affected by the commerce mechanism, the weight of the pages, the
effectiveness of the online application, the processing of instructions
from the visual front end to the back end. Operability is the area that
your existing technicians can perform well.
An improved balance of design, usability, and operability will lead to
your site's success. Certainly, your existing technical resources can
handle on-going additions and changes to information. However, the
original design concept must involve a graphic artist, preferably with
specialization in Web design, and the participation of a usability
specialist, if possible.
Is A Picture Worth A Thousand Words?
Maybe. But is it worth a thousand dollars? The other extreme in Web design
is a company who hands over total responsibility of their Web pages to a
graphic designer. You don't want an over-reliance on graphic design
Too many graphic designers have tried to force the Web to be an
electronic brochure. This is not what it was meant to be. The overall
quality of a Web site experience is determined by the ability of your site
to disseminate information, while the design principles and the graphic
design support it.
The Web requires you to plan how to communicate textual information in
an effective way rather than a purely graphic design approach. Think about
the fact that search engines are primarily based on surfers looking for
your text -- not your site graphics.
Gerry McGovern at www.clickz.com
really defined the point well with the following description of what he
calls "Information Architecture Design Principles." His three
main points are:
The Web is a literate rather than a visual medium. That is to
say words, not images, are the building blocks for the vast majority of
Web sites. Commercial graphic design focuses on grabbing the consumer's
attention through the use of strong visual images and short emotive
phrases. Graphic design is concerned with how a page looks. Information
architecture design is concerned with how a page reads.
The Web is an active rather than a passive medium. We are
constantly making decisions, such as to search for a particular term, to
click on a particular link and so on. Information architecture design is
concerned with supporting such decisions through search and navigation
The Web is a visually constrained environment. Computer screen
size and resolution, combined with download issues, mean that visual
experiences are poor on the Web. Certainly, in comparison to a glossy
magazine or a large TV screen, the Web cannot compete from a visual
communication point of view.
The End Zone
The best Web design should be measured by your site's ability to help
increase your productivity, client satisfaction, and eventually, your
profitability. If you put a team together with combined goals of design,
usability, and operability, then your site is more likely to get into the
end zone and score big with your staff, your prospects, and your
Think of your Web site as a productivity tool for prospects seeking
information. This is far beyond the tunnel vision of most who have an
"e-commerce" focus for their sites. Your Web site should be the
ultimate location for organizing, classifying, and presenting content
which is easily found and read. This is what leads to the most profitable
and productive marketing investment for your Web pages. Really... it's not
Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher™, is a business development
specialist helping companies win and keep more business through better
customer relationships. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker,
and facilitator. Using your company's existing resources, Wales is able to
create maximum results with minimum risk. Contact him at email@example.com.