Hi, We’re From Corporate and We’d Like You To Do It Our Way Instead of the Right Way

Man, September has been rough – lots of long weeks (they all seem at least 8 days long) punctuated by all too-short weekends. And now, with a vision of a better world (or website, as the case may be), I’m finding the harsh realities of corporate American getting me down.

We are in the process of redesigning our corporate Customer-facing website. My area has made great strides in getting those around us to understand the applicability and importance of web standards and well-designed sites (instead of the PowerPoint-into-HTML method that has long been popular). Many of our newest designs are being produced to be completely valid and accessible, mostly thanks to the two lead guys next to me, although I’d like to think I’ve been able to help push us in that direction. To that end, we have been using our design skills, our info architecture skills and our programming knowledge to wire-frame and even flesh out some good designs, using heuristic studies, Customer feedback and our own experiences. I created one design that I am really partial to (obviously), and while the idea was well-received, there is a snag (isn’t there always). The situation – our internal ‘programming’ group manages the current authenticated customer access site, while we are able to manage our
external, non-authenticated (NA) site (just recently we have taken this over from the previous khan). We will have almost unilateral freedom to redesign the NA site, and will probably be able to introduce the same design aesthetic – whatever the final result is – onto the Authenticated Site as well. However, the interal programming group – I’ll call them IT for short – is probably going to be able to require that they do the programming. So what, you think? Well, they suck at it. I mean REALLY badly. Our Authenticated Site is about 10% compliant, 0% usable to those with visual disabilities, and requires a ton of maintenance just to make it do what they want it to do. Plus, because of our corporate structure, we have to pay them to do development – and the cost will probably be in the $3-4MM range, and take 8-12 months. ANY later updates will require more money and 3 months to do.

So, I’ve suggested and been supported in the fact that we should move the whole project externally – or at least let us do the HTML/XML programming on the front end (why external? Because we don’t have the resources to take this on and all of the other projects we have right now, and quite frankly, it needs a bit more expertise than we have in-house). The cost estimate is probably $700k and 4-6 months. Updates – because we are going to put a content management system in – should be able to be done on a daily or weekly basis. Sounds like a no brainer, right?

But I’ve been told that we’ll never be able to get this through because we are supporting our IT department and our job – as the interactive agency for the Internet – isn’t to manage the projects and programming, it’s to make the things look nice. I’m dumb-founded. I can’t believe that a company can legitimately think that customer experience – usability, accessibility and interface – stops at how the site looks and what you click. Instead, we’ll spend 4x as much and 2x as long to develop a system that can’t be updated quickly or easily and will most likely fail to meet the needs of our customers. Is it me, or do others have this same problem when trying to develop good websites?


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