There was a moment when we stopped saying .com at the end of YouTube and Facebook and Twitter. You did it. I did it. We’d done it for a long time with Search Engines, “did you check AltaVista?” but they were true tools.
At some point, we stopped saying “I saw that on YouTube.com.”
Maybe we never did say .com.
This is important because a brand website isn’t thought of as a tool. It’s more of a one-to-many place where we carve out places (navigation) for people to get to. I have even heard a navigational tree called a roadmap. There’s a beginning — called the home page — to everyone’s entry point of a website. Once they are in, people have different routes.
Websites are thus linear. Start here, click here, then here and boom, they’re at the thing they want. (Important Rule: do not make people click more than 3 times…..they will never click that many….).
So we started with a home page and then designed rooms (Important Rule: be over the fold because people don’t scroll. Expect on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, MySpace, etc.). Google Analytics tracked exits from those rooms, and since we pushed someone to those rooms in a linear fashion, we were good with exits from those rooms because, what else did we want them to do?
For the last 15 years, with exceptions along the way, websites have been a mashup of three-fold brochures. Click three times to get to the information needed, then toss the brochure.
Now, if things stopped a decade ago, we’d be fine. But things didn’t stop.
In fact, this thing called Google kept pushing. Google doesn’t want people to click more than once. So when people search for that thing, they’ll take those people past the opening page, the flash, and the set up, right to the thing. Or, more likely, they will take people right to the thing of the competitor.
Websites that are like brochures don’t work on so many levels. They don’t work because they don’t bring people back. They don’t work because Google takes people right to the page they need. And they don’t work because online isn’t a place for brochures.
Back to the website
Assuming you need one, stop thinking in a linear way. It matters what people are looking for both in terms of usability and findability.
For examplel: Your people can be on LinkedIn. Your “about us” can be on Wikipedia. Your products can be on Flickr with Cooliris offering the tool for letting people wade through them (That’s Flickr as a CMS). Your news can be from Delicious. And your welcome to our company message can be in the form of a video taken on site by the people who are your true asset.
That is one place it could go. There are many more to explore, especially when one considers mobile. The online brochure has been Internet explored. Stop thinking in websites and think in experiences.