Oh, What a Tangled Web(site) We Weave

The story you about to read is true. The names have been changed because nobody in their right mind would believe it for a second.

We were once hired to create a B2B website. We asked the client what his objectives were. He said, “What do you mean?” Because we don’t give up easily, we asked the client what the site needed to do. He said, “I’m not sure what you’re asking me.” Undaunted, we gave it a gallant last shot. We asked the client what he wanted on the site. He said, verbatim, “Cool stuff.”

At this point, pretty much everybody knows hope is not a strategy. We had no idea what the client was hoping for. But we were pretty sure cool stuff wasn’t a strategy, either. Nevertheless, we created a site that looked like a Pink Floyd light show made out of gin-mill neon. We put in animation; sliders; pop-up windows; light boxes; a news crawl; weather updates; bells; whistles; smoke; mirrors; a real pig with lipstick; and swirling, flashing hallucinatory images that had us thinking we were having bad acid flashbacks — and we’re the ones who created the site!

Needless to say, the client loved it.

The Morning After

When we checked the website’s traffic statistics the next day, there weren’t any. Well … there’d been one visitor: the client. He said he’d gone on the site to see if he could see God or to find out if Paul was really dead. We suggested, with characteristic humility, that unless he was in the mysticism, rumor-mongering, or conspiracy-theory businesses, he might want to let us tweak the site a tad. He declined, of course, with a rather incoherent diatribe about being on the leading edge of cool and its only being a matter of time until the world beat a path to his URL. Right.

The experience left us a little jangled. But it also managed to make us devotees of the obvious, at least as it pertains to this one point: If you’re in business to sell products or services to other businesses, you’d better make those products or services as apparent and cleanly accessible as possible. If you don’t, you’d better lower your expectations … and your revenue projections.

Tangled websites might be cool. But they’re definitely not worth the opportunity cost.

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