Image by Anika Malone via Flickr
My wife and I are in the midst of moving my mother-in-law from New York to New Jersey, and one of the things she needs help with is changing her car registration and driver's license. So, as you might expect, I headed to the Web to find out what to do. What I found from the New Jersey motor vehicle bureau has a lesson in it for many small business Web sites.
The bureau's Web site looked appealing, with a section covering exactly how to handle a move from out-of-state. It even had tabs for the whole process, including ones for driver's license and registration. I almost clicked on one of those to answer my questions in that area, but hesitated, because I also had a question about auto insurance and I did not know in what order I needed to take any of these steps.
So, I decided to click the tab named "Overview."
Under that tab, I was greeted with a letter welcoming me to New Jersey by some motor vehicle official. That's it.
There was no overview of the process, no explanation os anything I was interested in. Just a welcome letter.
I quickly clicked on the other tabs and found helpful, clear information that answered my questions. Honestly, except for that weird Overview tab, it looked like a well-designed and executed Web site.
But that Overview tab troubled me. I wondered, "Why would someone do that when the rest of the site look so good?" I wondered if perhaps the motor vehicle management insisted on some kind of ego gratification, so they stuck that letter in there. But still, that wouldn't explain why they chose the word "Overview" for the tab,
No, I think something else is at work here, which I call template marketing. Many Web site development tools come with a template that can be customized for your business, and people sometimes just fill in the blanks with a cookie cutter system that gets the Web site up. maybe their system came with an Overview tab and they just didn't change it.
Or perhaps the motor vehicle bureau has standardized on the word Overview as the right one for its opening tab for every content page. So the standard template forces it in there, but the folks developing the part of the site I saw don't know what kind of content to place in that tab.
Either way, this kind of cookie-cutter marketing through templates, for all the ease it provides in creating both content and pleasing designs, must be harnessed for maximum value. It's fine for small businesses to use templates to upgrade the navigation and presentation of their Web sites, but not when it gets in the way of your customers completing the task at hand. Wen the template gets in the way of the customer, the template must go.