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Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 9:16 am

Who’s Working Your Website Assembly Line?

By Melissa Burdon
December 21st, 2009

online workers assembly line

Henry Ford perfected the assembly line concept in the automobile industry many years ago, and it has been utilized successfully in many industries since. Before Ford implemented the highly successful assembly line, instead of focusing on what each skilled worker specialized in and passing the car down the line to the next worker, the skilled workers crafted cars one at a time together as a team. Ford’s introduction of the assembly line resulted in the development of affordable cars (decreased cost) and increased efficiencies in the manufacturing process. With the new process, the car came to the workers instead, where they performed their specialized tasks over and over again on each car as it came down the line.

Let’s use this topology to look at the development of your web site and online presence. Do you currently handle your web site efforts with the highly effective assembly line in mind? Or, is your IT Department writing copy and developing the functionality, layout, and design elements on your web site along with actually coding and developing?

You’re not alone. Many of my clients have marketing departments who hand off design work, as well as the functionality and content of their web site, to their IT Department without thinking about the consequences. The problem isn’t that these IT resources aren’t capable individuals. They are very talented in their area of expertise. The problem is that their area of expertise isn’t marketing related; it’s technology related. They don’t naturally empathize and understand their visitors’ behavior; therefore, the design, functionality, and content are usually created to satisfy what’s important to them–not to others. We know that the population doesn’t consist of only one personality type, and that it’s incredibly important to speak to all personality types on your web site.

These are some of the common problems that our clients have run into due to this lack of an effective assembly line, where the IT Department is responsible for everything online:

  • “Submit” buttons and “click here” language used in calls to action. This language is unfriendly and doesn’t persuade the visitor to move forward.
  • Sometimes the IT department pushes back on a concern I present and a recommendation I provide because of how much time and effort is involved in fixing a problem that they see as unimportant.
  • Flash and unique applications are invested in when they offer little to no value to the visitor’s buying process. There has been no thought as to how this is adding to or taking away from the visitor’s buying experience.
  • Lack of functionality of forms. Some forms require incredibly specific content to be presented which isn’t user-friendly. For example, an error message may appear if a visitor doesn’t add spaces in a phone number or credit card number.

The following is a grok post from 2005, that was written about the IT Department’s struggles to speak to the visitor effectively:

“I like to imagine error messages are more often than not composed by techie types–folks who are perfectly happy to call a spade a spade and scratch their heads when you suggest the label might not sit well with all spades. Techies code stuff that will process provided you follow the process correctly. A form doesn’t submit because you overlooked entering your zip? Well, that’s down to you. The error message tells you so. End of story. Wanna go get a cup of coffee?”

The moral of the story is that we’re no longer in the 1990s and there are experts in every niche in the online world. Whether you’re a developer, designer, SEO expert or web site optimization and usability expert, don’t attempt to be a jack-of-all-trades. You’ll be losing out somewhere when you attempt to do it all. Do what you do best and outsource or hire others for the areas where your skills are lacking.

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Comments (28)

  1. Great story as I have never thought of it like this. I currently am trying to be the jack of all trades when it comes to working on my sites. I know that I would be better off hiring someone who specializes in certain areas that I do not know anything about; however I just haven’t gotten to that point.

    If you have some tips that you can share about finding people who can help you out with your assembly line then I am all ears.

  2. I agree that this idea of an assembly line is a great one for cost efficiency. As a small business owner I have found three issues with this approach, I haven’t given up on the idea and I hope that someday I will be able to emplement such a process in my creative process. But here are my 3 issues; 1) Bigger piece of the pie. I have so few leads coming in, and when I do the budget gets dwindled down to the bare minimum, the last thing I really want to do is give up slices of that pie to other folks. 2) integrity, I have had no luck “partnering” with other folks or even hiring them its true good help is hard to find, and it seems no one will work as hard as I do for “my” clients 3) creativity, if you do the same task day in and say out life will get pretty monotonous, and I don’t think any of us got into the creative industry to be “factory” workers.

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for
    a graphic design studio

  3. Hi Melissa,
    Your post makes two excellent points:
    a)A website must be customer focused even in the way it “speaks” — especially to different personality types
    b)Creating a great customer-focused site requires different talents and therefore teamwork.

    I work extensively with IT organizations to develop their customer relations and teamwork skills. Your post highlights and clearly underscores that all depts. — in this case IT — must remember to involve many perspectives and talents to reach the ultimate in customer service. Thanks for this post. I will tweet it on Twitter for you.
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

  4. I would be better off hiring someone who specializes in certain areas that I do not know anything about.

  5. A penny saved is a penny earned.

  6. Another symptom of the lack of an effective assembly line is boring, jargon-riddled copy. If content is cranked out in a hurry by a jack-of-all-trades–or even cobbled together by a techie–bad things can happen.

    For fun, we collected examples in our Jargon Quiz:

    Try to guess the company from its copy. These samples might have been written by IT.

  7. inspiring story, will make it life better in our life

  8. There is something about a thought that IT industry is just another industry with all of those labor workers and management but still it is in early stage of development which makes it invisible yet. But soon we can see a lot of changes here.

  9. The Henry Ford assembly line is the perfect analogy for what I wish I had set in place, but for now I’m a one man band. I have outsourced some things, but nothing close to this.

  10. Paul — Loved the jargon quiz post you noted above. People think from inside their own heads and then write accordingly. Having someone else read what you write before publishing is one way to combat the jargon nightmare. There’s now a movement in the customer service industry to tap customers’ talents in writing for you. Very interesting concept!

    You might also enjoy these two posts on writing from customer’s perspective and avoiding jargon:

  11. This reminds me that I need to take a look at one of our SoC projects that’s working on more interesting interoperability with vanilla WSGI applications; in theory that’ll help the compatibility situation,, from Django somewhat.


  13. Grat article and great picture!

    Thanks a lot

  14. will make it life better in our life

  15. As a bit of a “Renaissance Man” in IT due to my educational and business background (not IT related) as well as my age I tend to go against the trend of specialization. My view is more along the lines of specialization is for insects.

  16. The Henry Ford assembly line is the perfect analogy for what I wish I had set in place

  17. [...] [...]

  18. [...] full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Enjoyed this article?WebsiteWordpress [...]

  19. The true is that to many things get automated. Shortly, we will be out of jobs due to robots and this world will be entire based on money earnings

  20. If you read the early thoughts of Mr. Ford you will see that he never intended the process to work without hard work. Labor breeds capital, and the assembly line of the future is no different.

  21. Having someone else read what you write before publishing is one way to combat the jargon nightmare.

  22. Having experts people for your assembly line or also for conceptualizing is very valuable to be able to have the perfect outcomes you want.

  23. Thanks for good article bro

  24. The problem is that their area of expertise isn’t marketing related; it’s technology related.

  25. nice article , thanks

  26. Nice article.. it changes way of my thinking..

  27. great article. implemented to my site!!!

  28. yes Mellisa, you’re right. Also, there is a permanent “cold war” between designer and developers. They strike to find out what is more important – functionality or design (usability). I totally agree that these processes must be separated, and it is better even if this work is outsourced to real professionals, but not to the local IT department.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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