How to ruin your company’s well designed website and spend a lot of money doing it

Congratulations! Your company has just spent a couple of months and a decent chunk of change with a hipster web designer/team creating a fantastic website that is getting you traction with your clients. You’ve raked your web design team over the coals about type and color choices, image selection, content strategy, and site functionality. Now everything on the site is perfect and you launch. You are slap-happy with your accomplishment and send an email out to your company, colleagues, and clients announcing the new website. They pat you on the back save a few nitpicks. You feel like your company is on top of the digital world.

Now you are ready to move forward with other projects, so you turn the site over to your in house staff to manage and maintain. Congratulations, again! You are on your way to reducing the value and effectiveness of your new website and are about to “spend” a lot of money doing it. Let me explain.

But first, you need to understand something–design and development on the web is becoming more complex, not less. Despite the proliferation of DIY Content Management Systems like WordPress and “instant” website builders like Squarespace and WIX, custom website design like the one you just finished with your design team is an intricate, ever changing dance of branding, design, technology, messaging, and experience. And directing the choreography and logistics of that performance on your website over time is a level of expertise neither you nor your company are likely to have in-house.

I know, you have someone who is “good with the web” in your company–the IT guy, the marketing director, your secretary and maybe even you! All they need to do, you say, is post some photos, add some pages here and there from time to time, and change/add copy on the website. That’s easy to do, right? And your spiffy Content Management System will allow your team to quickly update the site so there shouldn’t be any issues. And that’s where you are wrong and it is going to cost you.

Everything on your website is a design choice–it could be photos, functionality, code, content, and/or text. What’s going to happen even with the simplest of website tasks (like adding a blog post or copy to an existing page), is that you/your team is going to gradually, methodically screw up the design, positioning and strategy of the site you’ve worked so hard to create with your professional website design team. Your staff’s website edits, updates, additions, changes won’t be executed with strategy and positioning in mind. They will be ad hoc, break things on multiple levels, and over time your once beautifully effective site will start to look and function like a second hand thrift store.

Remember all that money you spent to make sure the initial site design was “just right”? Gone when your team starts touching the site. Type will be off, spacing wrong, photos off brand, messaging unclear and/or lacking synergy with your strategy and positioning. Obvious functionality issues will cause you to call in your designer to fix.

The real problem is you and your team won’t even know there is a problem with the design and strategy. Why? Because you don’t have the design expertise to spot issues, and you have a natural blindness to seeing problems you create. In about a year, your site will be crappy but you will think your site looks and performs better than ever while your customers and peers know otherwise.

As web design professionals, we are to blame for giving companies and organizations a false sense of ownership of their website. We’ve misrepresented the value and role Content Management Systems play in website design and management. We know we can train a person to use a back-end system, but what we cannot do is train a non-designer, marketer, IT professional, administrative assistant to understand and implement on your company website the complex dance of brand, positioning, design and strategy. You’ll need a design expert to come along side your team do that if you don’t want to throw all that initial investment down the drain.

In my newsletter (see sign up link below), I’ll share management strategies to avoid spending a lot of money to ruin your website.

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