Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why is the Minister's picture on the home page?

In the hey day of Government On-Line, most government departments became Web savvy enough to know that users do not want to see a picture of the Minister on the home page. It doesn't help them with the tasks that they came to the Web site to perform and it doesn't get them the information they need quickly. This is common sense and I have also seen the proof by analyzing Web metrics and search logs for numerous government departments. People are not searching for the Minister's name. People are not clicking on the Minister's name or the Minister's picture.

But now, under the Conservative government, pictures of Ministers are all the rage again. But why? Is it because the Conservative government isn't Web savvy and is making a big faux pas? Perhaps, but maybe not.

Usability expert Gerry McGovern conducted a study in 2007 that looked at how client-centric or organization-centric government Web sites in several countries were. Having the Minister's picture on the home page was one of the organization centric features, as is using the Web site to talk about your 5 year plan rather than using it to implement it.

Back to our current conservative government and their love of having the Minister's picture on the home page. Why are they doing it? I don't think it is just ignorance of client needs. There is more to it than that. People do not know the faces of the Conservative ministers. This is a new government with lots of new blood. There will be an election sometime soon, and they want more visibility for their core team.

We don't want to view advertisements when we're watching TV. And we don't want to see pictures of Ministers on government home pages. But if advertisers and the Conservative Party of Canada are trying to etch images into our minds, we aren't likely to be rid of either one any time soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The intersection between organizational goals and client needs

Most Web sites are organization centric. They use terminology and information structures that reflect the way the organization does its business. Just like it is wrong to assume that your party guests want to sit through your vacation pictures, it is also wrong to assume that users are going to find an organization-centric Web site useful. Perhaps a few of them will - those that know you best - but most will not be interested.

Luckily, there seems to be increasing recognition of the need to be client-centric.

In some organizations though the advocates for client-centricity are going too far. They will use client research as an argument for stretching the organization’s mandate, perhaps at the cost of not achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. Doing everything a client wants can water down what you do, spread resources too thin, and prevent you from meeting your objectives.

So how can organizations become more client centric while not losing sight of their mandate and objectives? First, recognize that your mandate should drive what you do, but your client drives how you deliver it. Second, understand that you cannot be all things to all people - focus on the 80/20 rule by delivering the 20% of content that 80% of your clients are looking for and doing it really well.