Article: Jake Gorst


The Small Business Library

January 10, 2001

Should I Design In-House?

With the birth of the commercial Internet many companies realized the need to jump on the bandwagon and create a Web site. Rather than hire a design or advertising agency to create their site, they elected an employee or group of employees to go for training.

In the mid-nineties these individuals would learn html programming and perhaps some basic Adobe Photoshop techniques. By the late nineties the training may have involved any handful of html authoring software packages. Armed with their new technological know-how these employees went to work creating their companyís new Internet offering.

Some companies were quite successful at the task of designing in-house. Most were not. There are many reasons why these Web sites failed. Most failed because of a lack of understanding about the nature of the Internet monster that had just arrived and so rudely jumped into everyone's comfort zone. Some made the mistake of thinking that they understood it based on knowledge of previous advertising and marketing venues. Others felt that they could tackle it because they had the necessary technical knowledge.

To this day a large percentage of companies have not realized the full potential of the Internet because they assume too much and know too little.

You need to ask yourself, "Should my company design our Web site in-house?" This question may well be answered by considering another question: "Do we have the resources to do so?" Obviously those companies that tried and failed began by thinking that they were prepared. What did they do wrong?

Where did the responsibility land? In many cases the job of designing the site fell to the corporate Information Systems department. It makes sense, doesn't it? These are the people that set up the desktop computers, configure the servers and run the network. Many in this department know how to program html, javascript, cgi, etc. Some may have a working knowledge of various database programs and can design a great back-end system.

The one thing that most IS departments lack, however, is someone that has studied psychological marketing and has a solid graphic design background. As a result, the finished web site was unprofessional looking, difficult to navigate and hard to understand.

Needless to say, the task of developing the corporate web site should not become part of the IS world. The IS department provides the back-end systems that drive the site. They should not design it.

Should the task of developing the web site go to the Marketing department? The answer is, not necessarily. It is true, the Internet is a wonderful marketing tool, but if your site is selling products the Marketing department has no business administering it. Their time is better spent promoting it.

In most cases it would be best to establish a separate department made up of information architects, content developers and graphic designers. This group (we'll call it the Internet Development department) works closely with the IS and Marketing departments to accomplish their ends.

The IS or Marketing departments should not oversee the Internet Development department. As a general rule, oil and water do not mix. Creative and analytical minds can compliment each other and contribute to a successful project, but there may be problems when one controls the other. It generally results in wasted efforts and unnecessary tension.

So, if you are a business owner, and you want your business to be successful with in-house web site development, what should you do?

  1. Hire an information architect(s) (someone who will organize the information that will go in your site).
  2. Hire a graphic designer(s) with strong Internet design skills (preferably with knowledge of html and other forms of Internet programming).
  3. Group these two together and let them consult with the Marketing department for branding purposes and utilize the services of the Information Systems department to get your site live on the web.
  4. Have everyone report to you alone.
  5. Be open minded.
Itís that easy.

If your company does not have the resources to create a new department and hire an Internet development staff, you may want to seriously consider hiring an agency to create your site. The cost to do so is less than paying salaries. Having a professional, experienced agency create your Web presence will make you more money in the long run than having an inexperienced individual do the work.

Article by Jake Gorst, Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of E-Media Publishing, Ltd. Previously, Mr. Gorst served as an internet content developer for Citibank and other Long Island based corporations. On March 12, 2001 Mr. Gorst will be lecturing at the Internet Publishing Expo (http://www.ipubexpo.com) in New York on the subject: Fast and Easy Rich Media: The Right Mix of Content and Graphics for your Audience. Mr.Gorst can be reached at jake@e-mediapublishing.com.