The Web is about People, if we let it be

I was recently contacted by a company interested in having me consult on their development efforts. As I usually do, I did some background research to figure out who they are and what they do. I was appalled: their web site is one of tens of thousands of generic business sites, pretty but empty. All the buzzterms were there, the generic stock photos of the properly demographically-disparate team meetings, leaning over shiny laptops not wired to anything and pointing to pie charts with no labels. The ‘About Us’ page is filled with slogans and buzz words on how awesome “the team” was, without the single mention of who the team is.  The “Contact Us” page is a generic web-based form, with direct links to “sales@example.com” or “info@example.com.” Want a job? Jobs@example.com or hr@example.com.

What is it “About Us” you don’t understand? If you have a link saying “Who We Are,” you had better be ready to name names. Who are these people and what are they hiding? There’s no excuse for a web site like this. Are these people in the witness protection program? Do these people stand behind what they build? There’s no reputation to worry about losing because they never tell you who they are.

You can have the stiff corporate “Who We Are” of black and white pictures of the “Leadership Team” in suits, “Our Advisors” to name-drop your VCs or Directors, or a more playful site of caricatures and off-beat bios. Kudos go to the sites that include your Twitter and Github accounts, and let folks share their passion for mountain biking, marathons or matchbook collecting. But denying there are people behind your web storefront tells me you’re not proud of who you are, you’re uncomfortable putting yourself out there, or you’ve got something to hide.

And that’s the real problem with a “Who We Are” site like this: the publishers are telling us much more about themselves than they intend. In a customer-facing industry where personal service and attention is a key determinant in the success of the project, they’re stating they are not comfortable with that level of contact.

Food for thought.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.