Thin-Veneer Websites are Awful

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I reviewed a number of websites for the ASP Top Support Websites competition and some were absolutely terrific! (I understand that the results of the competition will be announced this week.)

And then there were what I call “thin-veneer” support websites. These websites are often for companies that have grown through acquisitions and are trying hard to “unify” their support websites under one umbrella–and they can also be the results of attempts to bring together disparate sites such as a documentation portal, the community portal, and the support portal.

Why are thin-veneer websites so bad?

  • The user has to work hard to figure out where to go. All the options are presented as equal and they literally all look the same.
  • The user cannot do anything useful on the landing page, which is nothing more than a directory.
  • Once the user selects a specific functionality, there’s no easy way back to the main page.
  • Each of the paths can lead to wildly different interfaces.

There is a place for thin-veneer websites as temporary measures (say, immediately following an acquisition). But they must be replaced by a properly architected site that:

  • presents the top 3-4 actions that users want to take, per a properly-conducted user persona analysis
  • offers quick paths to action, including some right on the landing page
  • provides a filtered experience based on users’ product assets and preferences (this is essential when acquisitions result in wildly different product lines being brought together)
  • guarantees a consistent user experience for all the functionality of the site

Do you have a thin-veneer website? We can help.

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