Your next website project: Don’t let IT run the show

Let’s say your car needs a new transmission. No one looks forward to that.  But you drop it off at the neighborhood “Transmissions R Us” location, you get the work done, you pay your money and you drive away.  

Not so fast.  Suppose the transmission tech offers to paint your car, too.  Sounds a little wacky, right?  Not many people would ask one guy to replace a transmission and paint the car, too.  Both tasks are focused on the car but require very different skills and experience.

But countless small businesses make the mistake of letting their information technology vendor create their website, too.   Surely the same people who install routers, write code and configure servers are also good at websites, right? Right??

Uh….not necessarily. 

Look, I have tremendous respect for IT experts.  I’m married to one, and many of my friends are seriously bona fide geeks.  But not one of them has any experience in brand and communications strategy or marketing – critically important factors in creating a strong website.  Great sites require various areas of expertise – IT merged with communications strategy and creative talent.  IT talent alone can’t do the job.  

How do I know?  Because several times over my career I’ve seen websites created entirely by IT people with no training in critical disciplines like graphic design, writing and brand strategy.  Last year I saw a small company’s IT guy take over the website and unilaterally decide it needed a new logo without ever consulting the marketing chief. Recently a client called in my firm after their IT vendor created a new website that looked state-of-the-art…if it were still 1999.  Both scenarios are unacceptable. And avoidable.

Put it this way:  No wants me writing code or setting up servers. That would be a total disaster. On the flip side, I really don’t want to see IT folks playing graphic designer or copywriter, either.  Both skills are necessary to building a great website.  But each has its limitations.  Specialization of work, in this case, matters.   

At the risk of royally pissing off my many friends in IT, my heartfelt advice is to let someone with significant communications and marketing experience run your next website project.  IT and its enabling tech smarts should be subordinate to marketing/communications and possibly to operations, not in the driver’s seat. 

- Eric Whittington