10 reasons it is not your web designers fault!

This week on Boagworld show we argue why you can’t always blame your web designer when your site fails to live up to expectations.

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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld show, we argue why you can’t always blame your web designer when your site fails to live up to expectations.

This is going to be the most popular podcast we’ve ever done, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
10 reasons it’s not your web designer’s fault. I feel this is going to get shared quite a lot.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. But how do we know it’s going to be the most popular, because we have 11 listeners instead of 10?

Paul Boag:
No, because it will get shared by people on Twitter and Facebook.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
That’s the only judge of popularity anymore, nothing else matters. You could be elected President in the United States, but if you’ve not got enough Twitter followers then you’re a failure as a human being. I’ve decided that I’m not going to reply to anyone on social media that has a clout score of less than 65. You don’t even know what clout is, do you?

Marcus Lillington:
I keep receiving emails saying “your clout score has gone up!” and I just think… that’s nice.

Paul Boag:
It’s crap isn’t it, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m right to ignore it?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
What is it, Paul?

Paul Boag:
It’s an algorithm that calculates your reach on social network.

Marcus Lillington:
How popular you are?

Paul Boag:
Yes, essentially. So obviously I track mine every minute.

Marcus Lillington:
Beep, beep, beep, you’ve gone up… Paul it’s gone down a bit!

Paul Boag:
I actually, it’s really quite sad, but I do know my clout score.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know why… you could tell me but it would mean nothing.

Paul Boag:
It’s 523 million, no it’s from 1 to 100.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So it’s fascinating. I’m not even going to tell you what it is.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got to see. I’ve probably deleted it. Hang on a minute.

Paul Boag:
You’re going to look up your clout score. I bet it’s like 4.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, probably it is.

Paul Boag:
It’s so stupid. I don’t know how do we even get.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, I know your clout score went up. See my score, that means I have to log in.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they’re trying to make you log in and …

Marcus Lillington:
So it’s all…

Paul Boag:
We don’t like the internet. Oh no, we don’t like spam. That’s what we don’t like. How are you Marcus? Are you doing all right?

Marcus Lillington:
I’m okay. Thank you very much, Paul. How are you, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Tired. I’m always tired. It’s my perpetual state at the moment. Hey I’m buying a new pillow.

Marcus Lillington:
Actually I was going to sigh then, and I’ve got a – I’ve a special pillow.

Paul Boag:
Tell me about your special pillow.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s just – it’s a triangular one. It’s one of those – not a solid triangular, good for podcasts, I’m making hand shapes here.

Paul Boag:
A pyramid.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but without the bottom bit.

Paul Boag:
Oh it’s conical?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. It’s like an arrow.

Paul Boag:
An arrow? Oh I know yes. So you can kind of go in the middle of it and yes, you can lean over one edge. You can hug it, because you don’t get any hugs in your life.

Marcus Lillington:
You could hug it, but I tend to lie on it, Paul, rather than face it. Basically I put it on top of my normal couple of pillows and it allows you to sit up, but much more, if you want to read a book or anything like that, but it’s so comfortable you can fall asleep like that.

Paul Boag:
It sounds very cool.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s great from a… kind of like… you can prop yourself up. It’s also really good if you’ve got a hangover.

Paul Boag:
Useful to know.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I find that sometimes I’ve got to get out of bed because my head’s hurting. Because I need to be upright, and lying down makes me feel worse. Some people are the opposite to that, but this wonderful pillow …

Paul Boag:
There you go, see.

Marcus Lillington:
…enables comfort. But it’s really good for reading and stuff. Tell me about your pillow, Paul?

Paul Boag:
I’m embarrassed by my pillow. To be honest, I will tell you what happened. Last night I had an appalling night’s sleep, and it was two in the morning and I was angry with my pillow, because as you do …

Marcus Lillington:
What in a two year old’s kind of way?

Paul Boag:
Yes, I had to be angry at somebody or something. My wife was asleep, so I couldn’t really be angry at her. So I only had the pillow to be angry with. So I went on Amazon and in a fit of pique bought a new pillow. In the light of the day, it might have been a silly mistake.

Marcus Lillington:
How much was the pillow, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Oh it wasn’t that, well, it was for a pillow. ₤35 for a pillow.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So it’s not too bad. It’s more the nature of the pillow that is the thing I’m wondering with whether it was a good idea.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s something that’s just going to live in the top of the wardrobe forever, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
It could well do, yes. It’s a water pillow. You fill it up with water. It got really good reviews on Amazon.

Marcus Lillington:
From the people who make water pillows!

Paul Boag:
No, no. it had 263 reviews that were 4.5.

Marcus Lillington:
All from Dave Water and Mike Pillow.

Paul Boag:
Somebody would have to have a lot of time on their hands to do that. I admit that maybe I’ve just gone for a gimmick, and been sold the emperor’s new clothes, but I will put a link in the show notes to the pillow with my affiliate code for those who wish to follow in my stupid footsteps.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t wait until next week’s podcast.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’ll burst. I suspect.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it won’t be. It will be it’s amazingly uncomfortable and it kept me awake all night. That’s what it’s going to be.

Paul Boag:
I got nausea. I just don’t know, I can’t really comprehend what the experience is going to be like. So if nothing else, there is a novelty factor there.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
But I buy strange things all the time.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve never even laid on a water bed. So I can’t, I don’t know. I always imagined they would be massively uncomfortable.

Paul Boag:
To be fair, this is isn’t all water. It has a kind of pillow top part, and then a water pocket at the bottom.

Marcus Lillington:
It said pocket, didn’t it? Admit it.

Paul Boag:
It may well have done, I can’t remember. Anyway, so there we go. I’m buying all kinds of crap at the moment. Although I got lucky and I bought something that was really good, for a huge amount of money. Oh, I’m such an idiot.

Marcus Lillington:
What have you done now, Paul?

Paul Boag:
I bought a new scanner, actually.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh yes, yes. I have your old scanner, which doesn’t look like a scanner.

Paul Boag:
No, no, it’s cool.

Marcus Lillington:
It looks like something …

Paul Boag:
I need to explain it to you at some point. But the new one I bought …

Marcus Lillington:
You have to wave stuff at it.

Paul Boag:
It magically works. But this new one is an Evernote scanner, link in the show notes for that. And it’s just so fast. Basically I got rid of two filing cabinets worth of paperwork, because you could just point it at the scanner and you got ‘vroom, vroom, vroom,’ it’s going through it that fast. And it’s all being scanned into Evernote, it’s very good, but it’s massively overpriced. And when I bought it, I thought I’d charge it to the company. And then when I had actually used it for a bit, I figured I’m never going to use this for anything work related, it’s all for the crap that you get through that you’ve got to keep, but you’re never going to look at again.

Marcus Lillington:
Why? That’s what a big box is for, Paul. You’re never going to look at it again, you just said it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, yes. But I don’t want to put it in a big box, because then that takes up space, so I can just shove it through the scanner–

Marcus Lillington:
That’s what your loft or your garage is for.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I fill that kind of space with other stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
But seriously how long it take? I mean honestly, it would take me about a week to go through all the paperwork I’ve got in my house.

Paul Boag:
It was amazing. No, it’s …

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s without going to bed.

Paul Boag:
It was so quick, it was amazing. Anyway.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay.

Paul Boag:
I like it.

Marcus Lillington:
I think you’re making more work for yourself.

Paul Boag:
I don’t. Maybe I might be, but I don’t care.

Marcus Lillington:
What you need is a secretary, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And then they do it all for you.

Paul Boag:
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Why don’t I have a secretary, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know. Just have one. Just sort it!

Paul Boag:
So I?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
I did have one of those virtual assistants for a while. You know you can get, you pay them on a time and material base. You can send them an email and they will organize whatever you want. And it was great, up until the point they booked me a flight from Aberdeen to Southampton rather than from Southampton to Aberdeen.

Marcus Lillington:
I remember that. And I thought it was you.

Paul Boag:
No, no. I got someone else to do that, and that was the point that I concluded that maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.

Marcus Lillington:
Did you say “you’re fired?”

Paul Boag:
I didn’t need to. I just never went back to her again. Bad customer service or something, I don’t know. I’ve got a whole rant. Talking about bad customer service, I will get on to the podcast at some point soon.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, later on after lunch.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but I’m going to write a blog post about our experience with British Airways, because we have… both me and Marcus had a …

Marcus Lillington:
They were good, sort of.

Paul Boag:
Sort of.

Marcus Lillington:
Well eventually they were. Their customer service was very good. Although interestingly–

Paul Boag:
No, their social media customer service was good. And this is what I want to write about in the blog post. I want to write about the customer journey and how just fixing the digital bit is not enough.

Marcus Lillington:
I have had no reply to the email I sent.

Paul Boag:
You sent the email.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I sent an email and you posted on Twitter, a bit of an experiment really. Now I might be doing them a disservice because it might be the same people, and they might look at it and go “we’ve dealt with this.”

Paul Boag:
No, it’s not, because …

Marcus Lillington:
Well, even if it isn’t the same people. They might look at it and go, we’ve dealt with this.

Paul Boag:
Possibly.

Marcus Lillington:
So I may be pointing a finger unfairly there, but yes, no response at all.

Paul Boag:
Interesting. So yes, I’m going to write a blog post about customer journeys, and about how you can’t just fix one bit, because that doesn’t leave people with a good feeling.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you think people might want to know the story?

Paul Boag:
No, no, they’re going to have to wait …

Marcus Lillington:
Till the post?

Paul Boag:
Until the blog post comes out.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, right.

Paul Boag:
It’s called cross channel promotion. I’ve just made that up, but it sounds fancy. I’m reading a book at the moment called The End Of Business As Usual, link in the show notes for that, which is a really good book. But he does like to make up fancy names for everything.

Marcus Lillington:
And you roll your eyes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so the connected consumer and I can’t remember any of the others–

Marcus Lillington:
You will be pleased to know I finished the pop anthology.

Paul Boag:
Have you really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
That’s remarkable.

Marcus Lillington:
How long will that take? That is the longest book I’ve ever read.

Paul Boag:
So what are you going to read next?

Marcus Lillington:
I went last night and grabbed an old Ian Banks sci-fi off the shelf that I haven’t read for years.

Paul Boag:
There you go.

Marcus Lillington:
Look to Windward is the one.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I like that one.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s the one with the nasty cat people in it.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I like that one. That’s a good one. Okay. Shall we talk about podcasty stuff?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So this week we’re going to be looking at 10 reasons it’s not your fault…

Marcus Lillington:
10 reasons it’s not your fault, stop.

Paul Boag:
Stop. It’s not your web designer’s fault. So we’re going to basically look at how… we’re going to look at the other issues that affect the performance of your digital presence, whether it be social media or your website, whatever else, that can’t be fixed by some outside contractor. Or not, that can’t be fixed, but isn’t really within their job description to fix in a lot of cases.

Marcus Lillington:
Even though many are, maybe we thought that they are.

Paul Boag:
Yes. So we’re going to get into some of that kind of stuff, and it is partly an exploration of how our work has changed over the years. And how we now tackle the kind of problems that traditional web designers don’t tackle anymore. So yes, let’s crack on with my top 10 reasons it’s not your web designer’s fault.

Lack of focus

Okay, number one is a lack of focus. So a lot of these things were organizational issues basically, that a lot of websites fail not because they’re badly designed, not because there are any kind of failures in the technology or anything like that, but because of some organizational issue. And the first one is a lack of focus. And we come across this all time, don’t we Marcus. So going into organizations that have websites, and you look at their websites, so I was doing one recently, I was going through their website recently doing a site review. And it just screamed that nobody really had a clue why the website was there or what it was for.

Marcus Lillington:
Always the first question should be why do you have a website?

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. And so often it’s “I don’t know really.”

Marcus Lillington:
Because they have one.

Paul Boag:
Yes, because the competition have one, or whatever. And so what happens is that people just shove content online willy nilly. And you end up with this website full of ‘someone might find that useful’ information, which I think that single statement: “someone might find it useful” is the kiss of death of any website in my opinion.

Marcus Lillington:
So we’re talking about the major problem with not for profit, academic, institutions, government bodies. I’m doing this important work, which I’m not saying it isn’t important work, but somebody might be interested. Well, probably you know the people that will be interested.

Paul Boag:
Yes, here you could talk to them personally.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly. So yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s a lack of focus in terms of a lack of business objectives for the site, a lack of prioritized audiences, another way of wording it, basically, is a lack of prioritization.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
So it’s a big issue, it’s one we encounter all the time. And it makes your Web designer’s job incredibly hard, because if there is a lack of focus on the website, then they end up creating interfaces that are trying to appeal to everyone, which means they appeal to no one, and they end up looking bland and boring, and you the client then complain that the website looks bland and boring. If they have got no business objectives, then it makes it very hard for the Web designer to create any kind of hierarchy on the site to guide you just to the important content, it makes creating calls to action really difficult. So these are fundamental things that need to be in place if your website is going to be a success. So that is number one, lack of clear focus.

Lack of leadership

Number two kind of… number one kind of comes out of number two, I think a lot of the time, which is a lack of …

Marcus Lillington:
Talking about number ones and number two, Paul.

Paul Boag:
How old are we? Honestly, it’s just pitiful. We are middle aged men and we’re still making toilet jokes.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I’ve got to just go off on a tangent.

Paul Boag:
Oh, that’s a surprise. I mention toilet jokes and Marcus has got an anecdote.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I’ve just read the top 10 jokes from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Paul Boag:
Oh yes?

Marcus Lillington:
And at number four is from Bec Hill: I was given some sudoku toilet paper. It didn’t work. You could only fill it in with number 1s and number 2s. Which I thought was rather good.

Paul Boag:
That’s quite funny. It’s a very appropriate joke. Well segued, that. Well done.

Marcus Lillington:
Move on.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so our second point, the lack of focus actually comes from a lack of leadership, which is our second point. I think a lot of times no one really owns websites in a lot of organizations, and by ‘really owns’, I mean, it has their full attention. So that you end up with either one of two scenarios. If you’re talking about smaller organizations or companies, then the company owner might be vaguely responsible for the website, but …

Marcus Lillington:
But it’s certainly not there.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it depends if they are an online business.

Paul Boag:
Yes, sure.

Marcus Lillington:
But if they’re not yet, then they’re not.

Paul Boag:
Yes and so it’s very, it doesn’t really rate very highly in their world view. If it’s a larger organization, inevitably there is some kind of committee. And I was about to say committees have their uses, but I take that back. Committees are useless, but …

Marcus Lillington:
Committees are fine, as long as there is a powerful chair, and if when they get together they make decisions, then they are fine.

Paul Boag:
Committees can work, but …

Marcus Lillington:
Not the decision that can’t be to have another meeting.

Paul Boag:
Yes, let’s go and get some more research and come back.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve presented to committees in the past that are great, and it’s about having enough senior people involved whose job is to make decisions.

Paul Boag:
Yes. One of the weaknesses however with committees is that ultimately no one individual is responsible. And I think that even when you have a group of people that are supposedly providing the leadership, I think without a single person with whom the buck stops, I think that causes problems. And a lack of leadership is… leadership is absolutely essential when it comes to creating a strong digital presence and identifying a direction that you’re going to go with your website. And it doesn’t mean a leader doesn’t do things arbitrarily. They consult, they take on board other people’s opinions, but ultimately they are willing to say yes I own this site. Yes, it is my problem. If things go wrong, then it’s down to me, I will make tough decisions et cetera. And I think every site needs that.

So often the people the web designer ends up with engaging with is some middle manager, project manager kind of person who the website has been given to. And that’s a very different thing to leadership. So that is number two, a lack of leadership.

Lack of customer service

So number three is a lack of customer service, which I think is a huge one these days. Going back to that book that I’m reading, The End Of Business As Usual, one of the things that book is really banging on about is the fact that consumer behavior has changed, customer behavior has changed, and the balance of power between an organization and its customers has shifted. There was this time when really as the company you were the one that controlled the relationship. These days it’s very different to that. These days the consumer has: all the competition are a click away. But also every consumer has an audience, they have an audience of friends and family and they know that there is power in that.

In the same way as I knew if I tweeted about British Airways, they would get back to me. That there was an impetus on them to respond to me, I was the one in control. And I think that the fundamental building block really of a modern organization is customer service. And the reason it’s so important is because it used to be the relationship pretty much ended when someone bought your product. Yes, maybe you wanted some repeat business from them, depending on the kind of organization that you ran, but these days people are sharing and talking about your products and services. I’ve been talking about the stupid pillow that I’ve bought …

Marcus Lillington:
The stupid pillow? Is that what it’s called?

Paul Boag:
Yes, that is its brand name. Or the Evernote scanner, and those are the kind of things: you do share the products and the services that you use, and that defines people’s relationship with them and expectations of them. Again we’ve been working with the university recently, and the primary way that people decide whether to attend that institution or not is on the feedback they read online from other students that are already studying there. It’s absolutely fundamental therefore, that that university is providing a good customer service to those existing students, so they say positive things. And that applies whatever sector you’re talking about. Providing customer service is the backbone of the modern Web. So that is a lack of customer service.

No centralised editorial oversight

All right.

Marcus Lillington:
What’s next, Paul, what else isn’t a web designer’s fault?

Paul Boag:
A lack of centralized editorial control.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
What do I mean by that? Right, well this is a kind of a larger organizational issue. I hate bloody content management systems. I think they’re mis-sold and they’re misused. So I wrote a post on this recently, link in the show notes to that. There is this perception that if we install a content management system, then anybody across the organization can do updates.

Marcus Lillington:
Which they can.

Paul Boag:
Which they can.

Marcus Lillington:
But they are not very good at it.

Paul Boag:
That’s very correct, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the bottom line here. The reason why the copy on your website is not very good is because you’ve not gotten anybody good doing the copy on your website.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. And you end up having lots of people that use a tiny little bit of their time to update the website, and they don’t know how to write for the web particularly, it’s not a big priority to them. There is no one central looking after consistency, not just in terms of tone of voice, but in terms of the message being sent out, what’s being said. I’ve reviewed websites in the past where one section will actively contradict another, and that’s going to confuse the shit out of users. And your Web designer isn’t going to be able to solve that if their job is just to build websites. And this is kind of really… we’re kind of getting into the territory of how we ended up. I suppose this whole thing is how we ended up kind of expanding out from just building websites, because we just got frustrated.

Marcus Lillington:
What really happened was we ended up providing a lot of advice, but then going “well, we can’t do anything about it.” Then we thought maybe we can…

Paul Boag:
Maybe we can, because we were saying things like you need consistency and tone of voice for example, as in this. But then we wouldn’t help them create that, but now we will help you create a content style guide, and we will help you find people internally that can be your central editorial team, and we will put the policies in place about who has access to the content management system and when. So I don’t know, I can’t work out whether that’s a Web designer’s job or not: these kinds of things, they’re beyond traditional Web design. We still do lovely traditional design and development, and that’s a key part of our mix still. But we’ve also moved beyond that. It would be interesting to hear if there are other agencies that are doing that as well. I feel like there is a few, but I do think we’ve taken it to the extreme.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s weird isn’t it? Because we were …

Paul Boag:
We are extreme web designers, awesome!

Marcus Lillington:
It’s interesting, we’ve often said that maybe specializing is the right thing to do, but we tend to be just spreading out a bit further. We are specializing, but it actually means more skills are required.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s an interesting one, because you do get into all kinds of organizational issues. When you say for example there should be centralized editorial control, then you have all the political problems of different departments not wanting to give up control of their bit of the website.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, and how do you deal with that?

Paul Boag:
Yes, so it does get into all kinds of business consultancy stuff as well, doesn’t it really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yep.

Paul Boag:
But I guess your average web designer isn’t going to be solving those kinds of problems, and they are problems that you need to look at, but let’s move …

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not their fault.

Paul Boag:
But it’s not their fault, leave them alone! I think I’m, part of the reason that I’m doing this, sorry I know you were ready just to move on to the next one. The reason I’m doing this one is because I often feel we go in and we do these site reviews for people. And I always feel deeply sorry for the internal web team, because I go in and say “this site’s shit, these are all the reasons its shit.” But it’s almost never the web team’s fault that the site is shit. It’s always other things. It’s always these kinds of things, because to be honest if a web designer is au fait and up to date enough to be aware of us and our work and the kind of stuff we do, they know what they’re doing. These are competent people. But they’re just constantly hamstrung by organizational shit, for want of a… that is a technical term.

Marcus Lillington:
You can put that in your next book, Paul.

Paul Boag:
So, yes. Where this guy has been reading like “connected consumer,” we’re going to have “organizational shit.” There we go. Let’s do the next one then.

Poor decision making structure

So I’ve swapped two around, Marcus, because it seemed appropriate that we move on from editorial oversight to terrible copy. That’s a big one, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and this certainly isn’t a web designer’s fault.

Paul Boag:
No, unless the web designer writed (sic) – wrote it.

Marcus Lillington:
We writed the copy.

Paul Boag:
We writed the copy.

Marcus Lillington:
You set it up the right way, righted.

Paul Boag:
Because they do sometimes write micro copy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so then it would be their fault.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But generally speaking, the web designer is not creating the copy and content for your website. And I wrote an article …

Marcus Lillington:
So you could turn this around and say this might be the web designer’s fault.

Paul Boag:
Okay, go on then.

Marcus Lillington:
Because you could say that the web designer might have done a lot of designs without any… with a load of lorem ipsum in it.

Paul Boag:
Oh, good point.

Marcus Lillington:
And really they should know better and they should have asked for proper copy when they were doing the web design work initially. So that it was never given enough priority as part of the project, so it’s their fault.

Paul Boag:
I like it, yes. That’s good. Perhaps this what you need to do with all the remaining points. Find me the opposing view. That’s a fair comment. If people aren’t… if the web designer… I think the web designer’s job is certainly to focus the client on the importance of copy and at least point them in the direction of advice that kind of helps them create good copy. I mean, I wrote…

Marcus Lillington:
If they don’t include it as part of their process, then I think you can’t blame them.

Paul Boag:
Yes, to some extent. I wrote a post recently about how just because you’re a good writer, it doesn’t mean you can write good web copy, and that is so true. Link in the show notes to that. And I see so many websites that just have terrible, terrible copy, it’s awful. But yes, apparently this one is the web designer’s fault, if they do it wrong, okay.

Terrible copy

The next one is back to committees. Poor decision making structures.

Marcus Lillington:
This is quite hard to blame on a web designer. I’m struggling with this one.

Paul Boag:
Well, I thought of a way. Sometimes I think we make it worse as web designers by asking the wrong questions and not presenting, giving the client all the information they need in order to be able to answer or make a good decision. Do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
But actually that’s a slightly different thing. I’m saying that it’s the structure of making decisions that is not the fault of the web designer because …

Marcus Lillington:
Well it goes back to lack of focus and leadership.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it does make …

Marcus Lillington:
So you’re just making repeats, so you could get to 10. That’s true isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
I did struggle on this one actually, to get to 10, I must admit. But it’s a Season 10, so there will be 10 points damn you. I’ve got nothing else to say on this, apparently. Marcus has ruled it null and void, so we’ll move on to …

Marcus Lillington:
Well, what is a good decision making structure, Paul?

Paul Boag:
A responsibility assignment matrix.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go.

Paul Boag:
That just sounds so sexy doesn’t it? Oh, I want a responsibility assignment matrix in my life.

Marcus Lillington:
Sexy isn’t the word that comes to mind immediately.

Paul Boag:
I’m not going to bother. I will briefly explain it, but I will put in a link in the show notes to an article around it. So responsibility assignment matrix otherwise known as RACI, is another name. And basically you have a list of areas of responsibility. So design sign off, technology, branding, accessibility, social media…

Marcus Lillington:
Writing news stories.

Paul Boag:
Writing news stories, prioritization, updating staff profiles. Whatever they are, a list of areas of responsibility. Then you have four areas, hence RACI. Responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. So with each of those areas of responsibility there are people that are responsible. In other words, the people that actually do the work. Who is going to write the news story for example. Then you have accountable. Now this has to be a single person, it gets around the consultancy weakness thing of… not consultancy, committee weakness thing of no one person who is ultimately accountable. In a responsibility assignment matrix you have one person for each responsibility area who is ultimately accountable. Then you have the consulted group, which are people whose opinions are valid and whose feedback on the decision is important to receive. And then you have those that are informed which are basically those that said this is what we’ve done, this is why we’ve done it. We don’t care whether you agree or not. You probably don’t want to add that last bit, but essentially that’s the nuts and bolts of it. So that is a much better decision making structure than a committee, for example, or even some dictatorial CEO that turns around and says I don’t like the green. That’s not a good decision making structure either.

Marcus Lillington:
Correct.

Paul Boag:
So let’s move on.

Poor social media support

Okay, next up poor social media support. This is a bit more of a kind of abstract one, but I wanted to include it anyway, because our websites are not our only digital presence these days. It’s not the be all and end all of what we do online, by any means. And so I think it’s really important that we don’t think about the website in isolation. And so often that happens, again we’ve been working with our client at the moment, who their website is absolutely awful, and it really is awful. But they can’t think beyond it in some ways and they’re not really thinking about the bigger ecosystem, of which social media is a big part of that. And also so many social media channels are essentially just lists of press releases and announcements. And really your website and your social media need to be working really closely together for the website to perform at its maximum capabilities.

Marcus Lillington:
It goes back to no centralized editorial oversight, because I think that centralized would include social media.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it would. So basically you’re saying this isn’t a point either?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I think you’re undermining my list. I don’t feel… next week you’re going to do a list and I’m going to tear it apart. There you go.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, yes.

Paul Boag:
Let’s do that. You heard it, he has committed himself. I know what will happen, you will turn up on the day and you will be like “oh, I need to do ah, right yes.”

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll do 10 jokes.

Paul Boag:
You can’t even find a flipping joke a week.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got loads this week.

Paul Boag:
All right. After last week’s show, right. Although it hasn’t come out yet, so …

Marcus Lillington:
No, but people are sending them to me.

Paul Boag:
That’s weird.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s weird. But also, obviously the one from the top 10 from the Edinburgh Fringe as well.

Paul Boag:
Oh, that kind of helps.

Marcus Lillington:
Which is a bonus.

Paul Boag:
Good. All right, so that is …

Marcus Lillington:
And one of the guys at work, they gave.

Paul Boag:
Oh yes, those were quite funny. I enjoyed those. Anyway, that’s poor social media support.

Lack of ongoing investment

Next is a lack of ongoing investment. This is my particular bugbear. So I must have said, I’ve used the garden analogy on the podcast before? You don’t know what I mean? So that means …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes. No, I don’t think you have.

Paul Boag:
I don’t think I have, right. So here is a random analogy that I like to throw around. So a lot of people treat website like it’s a building.

Marcus Lillington:
A website’s a building?

Paul Boag:
A website’s a building, no it’s not, Marcus, you’re wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
A website is a garden.

Paul Boag:
It’s a garden, exactly. A building, you plan, you build and then you do a tiny little bit of maintenance afterwards. That is not how we should be treating our websites. We should be treating them like a garden where you can …

Marcus Lillington:
Ongoing.

Paul Boag:
An ongoing thing that improves with time and improves with care and nurturing and planting and pruning and all of those kinds of things. It actually works really well as an analogy.

Marcus Lillington:
It does actually.

Paul Boag:
I stole it to be fair. I stole it from Seth Godin, but he referred to it as a project. A project is like a garden and not a building, and I don’t know about that. I don’t know whether I agree with him on that, but it’s certainly true for websites. So yes, I think there is a real lack of ongoing investment. The other thing that always strikes me is you don’t really learn that much about users until after a website is launched. It’s not until your website is launched and real users are using it on a daily basis that you really discover whether the website is working and where its weaknesses are. Yes sure, you can do user testing and stuff like that, and that’s absolutely great and wonderful. But until you throw large numbers of users at the site in the real world doing real stuff, and you monitor that via analytics, you don’t really know whether it’s going to work. So the idea of launching something and then walking away is absolutely ridiculous. A website needs to be something that reiterates and improves on a continued basis.

Marcus Lillington:
That is the main reason why it’s not your web designer’s fault.

Paul Boag:
You reckon? I’ve always …

Marcus Lillington:
Number one.

Paul Boag:
Number one, right. Marcus has spoken. It has Marcus’s seal of approval.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s also that… it’s the reason why websites get blamed: “the website is rubbish.”

Paul Boag:
Yes, because you always blame the last web designer from the last redesign.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Yes, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. I totally agree with that. Number one, wonderful.

No cooperation and coordination

So we’re nearly there, at number 9, and this one is no cooperation or coordination between departments across the organization. So this typically, often times, is a division between IT and marketing, although I’ve seen various versions of that. But basically what it boils down to is that teams need to work together to create an effective website. A website cannot be owned just by one department.

Marcus Lillington:
Cross departmental.

Paul Boag:
It’s cross departmental, or interprofessional, if you like.

Marcus Lillington:
New words you’ve learned.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’ve learned that just recently. Sounds pretentious. It could go in a book, couldn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
It could.

Paul Boag:
It could do, so I will put it in my next book. So yes, basically all these different teams need to work together. The reason is because a website encompasses a whole organization. What we often see is that, that you get hired by one particular department that bring you in, they are the ones that own the website, and actually they’re skewing the website in one particular direction. So if they are a marketing department, they’re treating it entirely as a customer acquisition tool when actually it should be a customer service tool as well, for example. So the website has certainly got a very broad remit, and that means that all the departments need to work together. And unfortunately in many organizations certainly that we end up working in, there is a rather strained relationship between different departments, and quite an accusatory relationship in many situations. So I think there are kind of deeper organizational issues that really you can’t expect any web designer to fix, and that is why you will end up with shit navigation on your site for example, because every department wants its own little part of the website and it all ends up being entirely organized around the departmental structure rather than users’ needs, because none of the departments can get along with one another. And that is not your Web designer’s fault.

Poor overall customer experience

Okay, so wrapping things up, I just wanted to end by talking about a poor overall customer experience.

Marcus Lillington:
This must be a web designer’s fault.

Paul Boag:
Well, no.

Marcus Lillington:
No? Okay.

Paul Boag:
Because the customer experience extends far beyond the website.

Marcus Lillington:
I was thinking in overall, yes.

Paul Boag:
So a great example of this is: you’ve got an e-commerce website, and a user buys a product and then it turns up late. Or it’s damaged and the customer service people won’t accept it back.

Marcus Lillington:
You really think that a company will blame their web designer for that though?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know. They don’t directly blame the web designer for that. They blame the web designer for “why aren’t people reordering,” or “why aren’t people recommending us” etcetera. I think it’s amazing what good web designers get blamed for, but I think you need to accept that the website doesn’t exist in a bubble, but it exists within a broader context. And that can have a profound effect on how effective or otherwise a website is. So getting the… I mean it almost goes back to number three really – you’ve got to provide a complete customer service. But also there are even more digital elements, for example ordering on an e-commerce site and then the emails that are sent out. For example, I love ordering from Amazon with e-commerce, because they use a tracking company a lot of the time, a delivery company called I can tell you, because they’ve literally just sent me an order, DPD.

Marcus Lillington:
I know them.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they’ve probably delivered to you at some point. Now what’s so great about DPD and why I love that Amazon use them as delivery is because they will email me the day before the delivery is coming, then on the day of the delivery they will text me and tell me specifically what time my delivery is going to arrive, within an hour slot, and they allow me to text back saying deliver it to a neighbor or deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday instead (because it’s Tuesday today we’re recording this). So those kinds of elements are crucial components in the customer experience, and are part of the digital offering, but aren’t necessarily produced or run by the web designers. All those follow-up emails, like “you’ve abandoned your shopping basket,” did you mean to, why did you do that kind of thing. All of those things that go around the website, often the web designer has no control over. Often the web designer would like control over them, will love to be involved in doing those kinds of things, but it’s not within scope or a different department handles email or whatever.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that always happens doesn’t it? Oh no, we don’t control that.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
You should.

Paul Boag:
Or I need to have access to the people that do. So it’s the fact that the website doesn’t exist in isolation, and that there are other elements that are built into the mix as well. So those are my 10 reasons why it’s not your web designer’s fault and you can’t blame them for everything. I would like to, because I no longer class myself as a web designer, and I do blame the web designers in our company regularly, for everything.

Marcus Lillington:
For everything.

Paul Boag:
Everything, just on principle, but oftentimes it is unfortunately not justified and that is a shame. But that’s the reality of things. Marcus, do you have a joke or three?

Marcus Lillington:
I have lots of jokes. I have already done one joke, so that makes up for last week. That was last week’s joke earlier in this show.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m impressed that people have started to send me jokes even though they haven’t heard last week’s show yet, which is quite impressive.

Paul Boag:
I think it’s some form of temporal disruption.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Anyway, Nick Johnson Hill is obviously an alien and he sent me lots of jokes, but I like this one. Did you hear about the two ships that collided at sea? One was carrying red paint and the other was carrying blue paint, all the sailors ended up being marooned.

Paul Boag:
No, that’s good. I like that one.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a good one.

Paul Boag:
Give us one from… another one from the Edinburgh Festival before we finish.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh okay. Well, should I go for the number one joke?

Paul Boag:
Oh, they’ve rated that?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
All right, okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Last one, this is Tim Vine. I’ve decided to sell my Hoover, well it was just collecting dust.

Paul Boag:
That’s quite good. Well done.

Marcus Lillington:
That was number one at the Edinburgh Festival.

Paul Boag:
And I don’t think that was so much better than Nick’s joke about maroon. I think that – yes Nick, you’re just as good as the number one comedian at the Edinburgh Festival. That is our opinion. We may be somewhat biased towards our listeners, but never mind. All right, well thank you very much for listening to this week’s show. We will be back again next week when we will be discussing another top 10 list, because I just believe in click bait. It really works, I will tell you. This season has been by far the most popular because people are suckers for lists. The top 10 anything, we all read, because we all like sheep. So join me in the sheep pen next week where we will do another top 10 list.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

  • simoncox

    Number 2 (oh er) and 6 – committees. We use a steering committee method where the teams with responsibilities, for content it’s the Subject Matter Experts creating the content, the tech people running the servers, the Content Management team updating the content for the Subject Matter Experts, the design and brand teams for the look and feel etc. are all subject to the direction of the site that the steering committee sets. On that steering Committee is a chairperson who has overall responsibility for the website and all the committee members are company executives. Previously we had one department running the site – that would change every few years and it was an internal battle ground with the direction of the site being dictated by the current teams responsibilities. It didn’t work – focus was too heavy in one direction and was not optimal for the users. The committee approach has proved to be far more effective.

    Number 4 CMS’s and 9 interprofesionalisms. Agree with you. After years of allowing anyone internally to publish to out intranet we are now cleaning it up (removing 90%) and controlling the intranet like we do our public websites and built with the same set of standards – with dedicated CMS teams (we have an internally run exam for them each year) doing the content management for the business Subject Matter Experts. It’s collaborative and produces far better user focused websites.

  • http://www.gchalker.com DesignerChix

    Now, I am wondering if I have enough klout score to leave a post? This by-far is your funniest podcast and everything you have told me has proven to be true. How is the water pillow? Have there been many drowning dreams?

    • http://boagworld.com/ Paul Boag

      The water pillow was an unmitigated disaster. I do confess all in a future podcast!

      • http://www.gchalker.com DesignerChix

        I slept on a water bed for ten years before I realized my back pain was caused by the darn thing. Same goes for the Jeep
        It’s amazing what public opinion can do. Don’t believe everything you read on Yelp either!

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