Corporate websites are mostly dire. They don’t have to be.
Meet Gavin. He’s 32. He’s just opened an artisan bagel shop in Glasgow’s West End. Gavin is lounging on a big sofa with a steaming mug of air-pressed coffee. He’s looking down at his smartphone and smiling the smile of a man who is trying to make you feel good about a financial services company.
Meet Beverley. Beverley, also 30-something, has been pictured standing unnervingly still as blurry figures dash around her. The style is ‘upmarket business attire with clipboard’. Her smile features a lot of teeth. They are the teeth which will inspire you to trust a major facilities solutions firm.
Meet Gustyglen Windfarm Array. Gustyglen looks splendid backlit by a sinking late-summer sun. The thrusting arms of its 10-turbine installation exhort you to embrace the green credentials of a large confectionery producer.
And finally, meet Richard and Felicity. They are retired (early). Cable-knit sweaters draped casually over their shoulders, they stand on the verandah of a beach-side lodge with their springer spaniel. Windswept, they point out to sea, teeth glinting. You want to find out more about that pharmaceutical firm’s concern for the family.
Sound familiar? I’ve made them up – but chances are you recognise this type of meaningless imagery that festoons corporate sites. It’s repeated over and over, site after site.
So much so, there seems to be a kind of group-think in play. Imagery is the most obvious manifestation of it. But the content is depressingly uniform too.
Here’s your free cut-out-and-keep menu structure for your next corporate site:
- Who we are/about us
- What we do
- Our locations/businesses
- Press and media
- Contact us
I’ve just saved you a fortune in agency fees. You’re welcome.
A corporate site is also invariably ‘on brand’. In fact, it’s probably the purest expression of all the component parts of your brand in terms of colour palette, font, tone of voice and so on. But without any defined purpose or goal, it’s an aimless place.
What is the purpose of a corporate website?
Is this apparently uniform approach just the nature of the beast? After all, there’s a legitimate need to talk about your business at a high level, and provide routes into the wider company. Some industries have regulatory requirements to meet, and the corporate site is the obvious place to cater for them. Thus, in asking ‘what is the purpose of a corporate website?’, there’s a readily definable answer regarding content – but is the overall objective clear?
A useful challenge would be to ask the top tier of the business what they think the site is for. It should be possible for execs to articulate the purpose of one of their main channels. After all, it’s your dot com, it’s arguably top of your digital pile in terms of status. But it doesn’t sell you anything and it’s largely non-transactional. Does that make it just a coffee table brochure? If so, why is the imagery so irrelevant? If it’s genuinely a gateway to your wider business, why is apparently so little attention given to the impression it creates about your company?
To begin to tackle the problem I’d suggest going back to first principles and revisiting what the site is for. That’s hardly a revolutionary idea. But it’s possible you haven’t asked the sensible questions for a while, and it’s useful to revisit why a corporate site is set up the way it is:
- Can you state clearly what the overall purpose of the site is?
- Do you have objectives the site should achieve?
- How realistic are the success criteria for achieving those? Are there any success criteria?
- Think about your audience. Does the site cater for them properly? Is the site really intended for ‘everyone’?
- Is the site task-focused; goal-driven? What calls to action do you provide?
More broadly, look at the user experience. Do the images relate to the content or the purpose of the site? Do they help site visitors complete their task? What can a user usefully do on the site? Is it easy for them to do?
And don’t neglect your site governance:
- Is a roadmap for site development in place?
- Is the site owner involved in site direction?
- Do you consider your site analytics with any regularity? Do you take any action off the back of them?
Go back and look afresh at your corporate site. After all, there’s time and money being spent on maintaining it. And, please, let’s have fewer teeth, and less pointing.