No Website is Better Than a Bad One

    October 18, 2004

Not publishing is much better than publishing poor quality content. Most people come to websites to carry out tasks. Quality content will help them complete these tasks quickly and efficiently. Poor quality content hinders task completion, and frustrates and annoys people.

There is a lot of content on Irish government websites about renewing your driving license. Some of it is useful, some of it not very useful. Much of it is well written, but some of it is badly written. I read content on one website that contradicted content on another website. The online license renewal form I tried to use reflected very poor design. Instead of being convenient it was a major waste of time.

When establishing websites, some organizations make the serious mistake of thinking that something is better than nothing. Many managers see a website as a project. They measure success based on things done. The website has an online application form, it has a search engine, and it has content. The form and search engine may not work well, the content may be badly written, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is that the project is completed.

No manager sets out to design a bad website. The problem is that too many managers view content as a commodity instead of the critical asset that it is. I’ve known managers who will spend a lot of time focusing on graphics, and then give the content creation job to the most junior person they can find. I’ve known others who believe that once they’ve chosen the right content management software, their job is done.

The graphics and the technology are a minor part of web success. The content is the hard part, and it is also what will make your website a success or failure. What I read as I tried to renew my license online lead me to waste a lot of time. It would have been a much better situation if I was presented with the following:

To renew your driving license, please ring your local county council office. A contact list follows.

I would have rang, got a form sent out in the post, filled it in and sent it back. Job done in the minimum amount of time and hassle. Not everything works better on the Web. Renewing a driving license requires a signature that will in fact be appended to the driving license itself. This means that you need a print form. On this print form it tells you exactly what else you need (photographs, fee, etc.), so there’s no need to publish this information on a website.

Some organizations complain that they don’t have the resources to professionally manage their websites. That is not an excuse. No website is better, and much cheaper, than a bad website. Websites are supposed to save time, and yet my experience is that they more often than not waste it.

If your website isn’t working, then fix it or get rid of it, but don’t just leave it up there and ignore it. Every day, real people with real tasks come to your website. If your website wastes their time then you risk damaging the reputation of your organization. No website is better than a bad website.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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