A website is usually less than the sum of its parts. Let’s fix that.

There is a broken mindset out there that goes something like this: “If we hire the best people, if we have the best technology, we will be the best.”

Not true.

The problem with this is that people look at their companies like they might look at a race car. If we put the best tires on it, the best engine in it, the best transmission, suspension, exhaust system, and fuel, it will win the race. But the problem is that they aren’t paying attention to the chassis. A better engine, tires, suspension and all of that on a mini-van will be the best mini-van possible, but it’s still going to lose every race. The idea that our chassis (the operational structure and tendencies of our business) is automatically going to change into a race car when we put better tires on it is an illusion.

Businesses that operate on the web have to overcome two key hurdles (and there are others) when integrating “better” into their process, and the hurdles don’t always look the same.

Technology, Marketing and Design

On the one hand, there are the hurdles that are presented when integrating best-in-class technology or when presenting isolated victories to the user (like designing great landing pages apart from the rest of your site). These hurdles represent incongruence to the user, conjure skepticism and doubt as to the consistency or quality of your offering, and ultimately can destroy the brand if people think you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Many brands come under intense criticism when users realize they are just pretending to care but really do not, and the idea that someone can buy technology to cover up the lack of a customer-oriented business model or a genuinely good experience is akin to the idea that someone can buy an official Kevin Garnett jersey and suddenly be able to dunk. It doesn’t work like that.

Let’s say your web site is poop (many are). How does poop look when…

  • You launch a world-class marketing campaign? High-exposure poop.
  • You create awesome landing pages? Poop behind a pretty door.
  • You have awesome product photography, 360 views, and reviews? Interactive poop.
  • You make the site super-responsive? Faster poop.
  • You have the best checkout process in the world? Poop that accepts Discover.

People

The “issue” of hiring great talent is a different one altogether. The reason I say “issue” is that it’s never a bad thing to hire a rock star, but when you try to plug that rock star’s guitar into the same amp that someone else in the band is already using, their mind-altering guitar solo is going to come out like mud.

The people issue can be different than the technology issue, although there are many similarities. The most notable hurdle is that people consume resources. They consume budgets, they consume attention, they consume human capital; and all of this consumption can cause a lot of strain. Why? Because no organization has unlimited resources, and the resources these people consume are the same resources others wish to consume. Sure, it’s easy to split budget up, but what about the home page? How do you split that up?

  • Hint: the way we do it today just makes our home page look like Mardi Gras — everyone loses, especially the user
  • Hint #2: the home page isn’t your front door: that’s an outdated mindset, so quit fighting over it

The problem with hiring rock stars is every one of them wants to wail on their solo. But that’s not how music works. People have to take their turns soloing, and while they aren’t, they need to keep the beat and back the person who is. So why are most businesses creating goals and financial incentives to practically ensure everyone is trying to solo at the same time?

While you can layer technology on top of technology and often avoid conflicts (obviously not always), this is nearly impossible with people, especially if they specialize in different trades and think that that their trade is God’s gift to man. People think that marketing is more important than customer service. Other people feel the opposite. People think that aesthetics are more important than utility, others feel the opposite. And meanwhile, your company is bonusing everyone based on their solo. This makes for bad music.

Who will save the day? You.

You are a pretty unique person. What you bring to the table in the form of data that helps prioritize the solos and show how to integrate technology, marketing and design is invaluable. You, for example, can see that people on twitter are cutting your company down at the knees for hiding a crappy experience behind a lovely landing page. The information you can gather reveals how poopy your site is, where it’s poopiest, and how you can empower the right rock stars to make it awesome by getting the most out of their specialized talents.

But wait, that’s not the important part. Not even close.

What you really bring to the table is a perspective shared only with the CEO and COO of your company (hopefully): a lack of decision bias. What makes you truly special is the fact that you don’t get a bonus based on a marketing outcome. You don’t fight for a bigger budget to drive ever more people to your house of poop every quarter. You don’t think that any one sub-component of your web site will usher humanity to nirvana. You understand that we are making music.

You can help the company execute better by helping the company integrate better. You can help create scenarios where, when budget, resources, hires, or home page space goes to one stakeholder and not the other, they both win. You can reveal the positive impact of one stakeholder sacrificing for the sake of the other, and suggest that both be rewarded for a holistically good decision.

When someone asks me, “What does an engagement with your company look like?” that can be a pretty hard question to answer. We will do anything and everything to make your business better so you can make your site better. Yes, we can optimize your search campaign. Yes, we can do world-class SEO. Yes, we can create dashboards and do implementations, design landing pages and optimize your cart experience. But that doesn’t necessarily stand out: there are other companies out there that have amazing, incredibly talented people like ours, too. What makes us (and you) unique is we know we are in a race, not in a tire-quality contest. And if your company is a mini-van, the chassis is the main thing we need to fix.