We all know what a good Web site looks like. Just look at the ones you use everyday. Google, Facebook, Yahoo (Yahoo! If you’re on your third cup of coffee), and eBay. Here’s a complete list of the top 100, http://www.quantcast.com/top-sites-1. With the billions of dollars of business that is done on these sites, you bet your ass they are paying attention to user experience design and digital marketing. But that type of design and marketing isn’t something advertising agencies do well. So the reason why the best sites don’t win Addy awards is because they were not designed by ad agencies.
Most advertising shops don’t think about branded utility and creating meaningful conversations, they push ideas that win awards. If it’s not pretty or clever enough to win an award, they won’t dream it, much less pitch it. Everyone in adverting knows it’s about the awards; they just keep that fact to themselves when selling to their clients. Now, not all advertising shops and advertising creatives are the enemy of the Web, I have seen really strong interactive work from a few, but it’s not typical.
So who should be designing Web sites? Well, interactive shops and marketing agencies have been creating the sites you use on a regular basis. These are places that know how a site functions and what it does is infinitely more important that how it looks. Information design takes just as much creative talent and thought as creating pretty pictures. I would argue more, actually.
Adverting agencies have added interactive capabilities, pulling talented interactive people into the mix. Don’t be fooled by this. True interactive people in advertising are often treated like a necessary evil. They get ignored when they have ideas and are wholly disrespected. Everything they do is subject to the approval of someone who is unqualified to judge their work.
For an interactive to get respect at an advertising agency, he must abandon user centered design. And that designer must be prepared to have his site taken down after 3-6 months when the user base drops off to nothing. I say this because I can think of one individual who has done just this. And yet, for the stream of failed interactive experiences, his agency just loves every potential award winning site he designs. I guess that will work for them as long as they can misguide their clients.
Think an advertising agency would have developed an idea like blogging, an online auction, or social networking? Not a chance, those ideas came from interactive people, not advertising people. Advertising’s structure and focus is best used for that commercial you DVR past or possibly the banner ad you don’t look at and never click on. I would have thrown newspaper ad in there, but in 5 years those won’t exist.