Forward: Note that although I have updated it a bit, I wrote this article around 2000. I will accept
that things might have changed a little since then ... but not enough.
Anyone who has read any of my books or attended any of my talks, seminars or lectures will know I take a very firm stance on the role of the IT department in website design.
So I thought I had better make my musings on the subject clear.
Firstly, I have no problem with techies per se. They can make things happen on computers that I would never be able to do … ever, ever, ever. Their work is essential in making the Internet work.
But - and it is a big BUT
They should never be given responsibility for - or put in charge of - online marketing.
Internet marketing is all about marketing on the Internet. With a few exceptions, techies have never studied or practised marketing
- so why would they know anything about the subject? So why ask, or expect them, to take responsibility for it? In simplistic marketing
terms the company website is an advert promoting that company. Would you expect a Cisco-qualified networks techie to be able to develop
a TV ad - or even write effective copy for a newspaper ad? No? So why charge them with looking after that element of the organization's
marketing communications strategy that can be seen by everyone in the world, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
And if you think this is a personal downer on IT staff think again. I would say that around 80% of marketers don't know enough about
Internet marketing to be put in charge of any aspect of the organization's online marketing!
I should, of course, make clear what I mean by both IT and techies. It is the former that gets me into most trouble.
You see, every IT or IT support department I have ever come across is full of clever folk who make sure that the organization's
networks don't fail. And the firewall keeps out nasty hackers. And software is right for its applications. And the hardware is running
properly. To become experts in all of this stuff the staff will have studied 'computing'. Somewhere in their degree programme there will
be a module on website design - but it will be the programming side of things, not the commercial aspects. Taking this module - and
maybe even developing their own 'hobby' website - does not qualify them to develop effective commercial websites [in much the same way
as me taking a finance module in my Business Studies degree and filling in my own tax return does not qualify me as an accountant].
And yet in so many organizations it is the IT dept that has responsibility for the organization's web presence.
As for techies ... well, I call everyone who works in the IT dept a techie. But, for me, techies also include all those
really clever people who make websites work - the back-end development if you will. I mean those scientists who develop search
engine algorithms and programmers that make online databases work, virtual reality real and games play and so on.
Now, whilst you will never find me writing a book on any scientific subject, that does not mean some
scientists - with no marketing education, training or experience - feel qualified to write about my subject ...
marketing. Take the [I assume] extremely clever Bernardo A Huberman as an example [check out his bio on Wikipedia
- note the word 'marketing' does not appear in his qualifications].
In his book, 'The Laws of the Web' he advises organizations to design a website that
'... lengthens the path traversed by a given user, thereby making him [sic] visit many more pages'. It would seem that
at sometime he has looked at how supermarkets generate more income by putting grocery staples at the back of the shop -
but has ignored online usability issues [read: good marketing practice] by simply transplanting the concept onto the web
without considering the environment in which it is being applied. I doubt he would do the same with
proven scientic theory, so why do so in a marketing environment?
Techies and scientists are not, however, to be confused with designers, particularly graphic designers. These are the folk who handle the
aesthetic side of websites. The problem is that in many universities website graphic design is taught in computing schools - which
often means that graphic designers are also taught techiestuff. Worse still, graphic design is also often a module in IT
degrees. But the commercial Internet is about the application of those skills in a complex market environment where the needs of
customers are paramount. In other words, they are used in the marketing of the organization.
Of course, there are some techies who have crossed the great divide and understand business and marketing, and I doff my cap to them.
Sadly, there are far fewer marketers who have learned any - never mind all - of the technical stuff. And that
For more of my ranting on this subject, see
what is wrong with e-marketing,
technology vs the human touch,
website development is like making a movie -
or come to any of my seminars, sessions, lectures or talks.