Does Every Website Have to be Oscar-Worthy?

This Post is Written in : 28 February 2011, Under Category :

I was having an online discussion recently about websites, largely because of this article, particularly this statement:

A ‘brochure’ site is passé. Your site should allow visitors to interact with you, and allow you to regularly share relevant information. A blog, alongside the main website is usually a good way to provide content, on an ongoing basis. This can keep visitors flocking to your site.

Eventually, the talk came around to this: Does every website need to be charismatic and unique or is there a place for the basic 5 page website? If a business is not willing to go “all out” with their website, should they even bother?

We talked about blogging on the topic, but I didn’t have any immediate plans to write about it and put it on “Someday Isle”. Then this week’s UsGuys blog question came along, and it was “What have we learned from the movies?” in honor of the Oscars.

So, oddly enough, in my mind this brought me back to the original discussion. Let’s say that the holy grail of website design is like an Oscar nominated film. It communicates a message, it’s beautiful- maybe it’s even entertaining. And, in a perfect world, it also makes money.

When a person sets out to make a film, to some extent they know whether they’re making an Oscar-worthy film. I have no doubt that the producers of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” weren’t sitting by the phone waiting for the call from the Academy on nomination day. But, clearly, not every film maker sets out with an Academy Award as the final goal.

There’s a tremendous difference between this World War 2 training film:

And last year’s special effects winner, Avatar:

Or this year’s Black Swan:

It would be easy to say that either Black Swan or Avatar is a better movie than the World War 2 training film. It would probably be reasonable to say that Dude, Where’s My Car? is a better movie than the training film. But no matter how cinematically superior those movies are, they can’t teach a soldier how to use a signaling mirror. So, if the point is to teach a sailor stuck at sea to save his life, I’d choose the training film any day.

Similarly, I think there is a place for a variety websites. While I may have a preference for what our clients would do, ideally their goals and, yes, their budget should help determine what type of website we create. While many website would be made better and more valuable by adding a blog, for example, that step is pointless if no one is going to write on it. If the plans of the business owner for the website do not include interacting with their customers, then adding that functionality is pointless (although creating a website where that added function can be easily added down the road is almost always a good idea).

So, is there a place for a brochure style website in today’s age? I would argue that there is. But just like the modern army training videos have evolved since the World War 2 training film, even though a lot of the content remains the same, I would encourage business owners who have a website to allow their site to evolve, as well. A brochure style website may be functional, but its purpose needs to be carefully evaluated to determine whether this is the best use of business resources.

So, what have I learned from the movies? Pretty much every kind of movie has an audience- from B movies to foreign films to Academy Award winning movies. I think the same can be said of websites. So, know your audience. Movie makers don’t try to sell Cinema Paradiso to the 14 year olds lining up to see Never Say Never. If you’re a business selling oil rig parts, your website should be different than a landscape architect’s. And if a 5 page, simple website will suffice for your audience, then I say go for it, even if it won’t ever win an Oscar.

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