Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : User Experience Featured

What universities put on their homepages

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : User Experience Featured

It is funny how history repeats itself.

Of late, I’ve been referring to this old graphic – from literally 6 or 7 years back at least – that sums up the challenge facing many traditional, department-driven businesses when planning their websites.

The challenge comes from the somewhat common notion that a website should reflect the business and its different departments and that every department should have a say on the website and their part of the website.

This notion, unfortunately, is almost exclusively incorrect.

Not only does building a website around the different departments within a business lead to all sorts of fights (with the web developer often in-between) about which departments get prominence and which department truly owns the website (hapless Marketing vs determined HR), much worse than this fight, the notion invariably leads to the wrong website being developed.

It is true that many years ago, websites were essentially brochures reflecting the structure of the business and its departments, though in hindsight, this was an incorrect approach and one that delivered websites that fell short.

The correct approach – as we have learnt over the years – is to design a website for the user of the website, not the owner of the website.

To this extent, unless a requirement of the user of the website is to know the structure and departments of the business, the website should reflect this.

This approach obviously requires an understanding of the different users of the website and their requirements and indeed, this should be the first step in planning really any website.

At the same time, different users should not necessarily be given equal treatment in terms of messaging, calls-to-action and navigation.

Focus on what I refer to as the ‘lowest common-denominator’ user and help them foremost on their journey: this is often the user that doesn’t know where to start or even possibly, what they are after.

Conversely, employees, people looking for careers and people in the know will be far more capable of navigating your website and so can be treated with far less pomp and ceremony and focus.

The website is for the user. Not the business. It may be necessary that different departments contribute to the website though only once the requirements of the users have been understood, defined and agreed.

Anyway the graphic of what universities put on their homepages versus what the users want.

What universities put on their homepage versus what users want

Unfortunately, I can't give credit for the graphic as I have no idea of where it originated.