How would you like someone without a medical education doing surgery? A person who has never flown before... piloting a plane? A third-grader negotiating with world leaders?

Web design or redesign draws employees from a variety of jobs because this kind of project is fun and exciting. Yet, even though they're attracted to the possibilities on the Web, not everyone should have a say.

Of course, more than designers need to be involved in a Web project, but the people who do should have an integral role. Executives—unless they're Web designers—shouldn't provide advice on how to design the company's site, for example. Sure, they may have opinions about what they like or don't like, but they shouldn't have free reign to shape the design. Besides, even though some of them may think they know exactly what your prospects want, they're not the target market and may not have their visitors' best interests in mind.

Readers offer ways to sift through executive-level advice and keep potential Web design meddlers in check.

This Week's Marketing Challenge

Keeping a Web redesign realistic

We plan to redesign our corporate site, and the executives involved are neophytes. They enthusiastically share ideas and wants, but these are not standard practice in Web design.

I figure my best bet is to find information and resources on standard practices in business-to-business Web design, share it with them and hope they get the idea about what we need to consider. What are some resources or Web sites I should use to share with the executive team, or how else should I "gently" help them understand their ideas are off the mark?


Not many employees can stand up to executives and tell them they're wrong. Danielle is on the right track in trying to ensure the site complies with Web standards and W3C recommendations, and she can work better with executives by following readers' two main suggestions:

1. Rely on outside resources

2. Focus on perspectives and ideas

Next Marketing Challenge 

Wake up, product! How to re-brand for more sales.

Click here to offer your advice or here to ask a question.

Rely on Outside Resources

Doing a search on high-quality resources related to Web design can overwhelm a non-designer. Fortunately, many readers already have the inside scoop. Here are the best of the reader-recommended resources.

Sara Adams, marketing director with CustomScoop, recommends Don't Make me Think by Steve Krug. "He offers extremely compelling arguments to steer the common requests made by executives on Web site design," Adams says. We second Adams's suggestion and also recommend Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow That Works by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler.

Dan Soschin, director of marketing with Nimaya, Inc., advises to go to the competition:

  1. Look at what your competition is doing.

  2. Check out what companies bigger than you and that you wish to become are doing.

  3. List adjectives describing your company's personality, find sites that fit those personas and incorporate their features.

Rebecca Nelson, with Allina Hospitals & Clinics, writes: "Filter through their suggestions, and select some to test on customers. Executives listen more when you come to them with some solid usability testing results and standards. Using such data strengthens and depersonalizes your argument."

For those who don't have trouble being upfront with executives, Anna Barcelos, marketing director with Business Link International, shares an experience:

The only way for them to understand their ideas are off the mark is by telling them, "Your ideas are off the mark." Be prepared to explain, however! I've been in the same exact situation and have survived to tell you about it. I would put together supporting information for why their ideas may not make sense. I would also keep the site's goal(s) in mind. It's the best reference.

Anytime there are suggestions keep asking yourself, "Do they support our Web site goals?" Now for resources, you are already part of an excellent resource, MarketingProfs! You can find an abundance of information here and great folks who can offer excellent advice. I've gotten great information (and empathy on some occasions) here! Additional resources, best practices, and case studies can also be found on AMA (consider being a member), Marketing Sherpa and ClickZ.

Another reader points to the local tourist/information bureau because membership includes a Web page to which a company can link—"an excellent marketing tool since this type of source has a marketing partner that will work with you in putting out the information to know."

Focus on Perspectives and Ideas

Try looking at the situation in a different way and use that to work with the executives and the redesign. Michelle Zeller, director of consumer marketing with Levolor, supports the idea of turning a problem upside down:

Perhaps their "not standard practice in Web design" ideas could be the next breakthrough and innovative practice differentiating your company from the competition. Challenge yourself with a new mindset, "With a little gentle tweaking, how can I make this into a blockbuster WEB execution?" Of course you need to ensure some fundamentals, but stretch yourself to think outside the box by using their enthusiasm (and naivety) to fuel new thinking. Healthy friction is what sparks and ignites successful companies toward growth. You're in a perfect place to harness a seemingly "frustrating" challenge into a great opportunity.

Jonathan Lyon, director of marketing with Upside Wireless, Inc., asks what standard practice in Web design is:

Sure, standards compliance and accessibility are really important, as is user interface design, navigation and all, but I also think we all need to think outside the box—creatively! I look at it this way, if there were never any dissenters from popular thought, those who chose not to follow the crowd but to strike out on their own, we wouldn't have the diversity of design we have now. I think George Bernard Shaw best summed it up with this quote, "Some men see things that are, and ask why? Others see things that never were, and ask why not?"

Before dismissing some of their ideas, consider the following: Business and consumer markets have become more competitive, customers are more demanding, and we must work harder to secure the fundamental relationships that fuel our business growth. Building distinctive relationships with our customers is what branding is about, whatever the market, whoever the client. Be different, be engaging, be bold and redefine the future. It's your right. To effectively reach consumers today, we need to represent the brand better. In B2B, it's not just what we are selling to our customers, but what they are selling to theirs.

"Ideas are the standard practice in Web design," says A. Dale Dahlgren, "conceptologist" with But, of course, not all of them are good, others are too expensive, and still others are too unconventional:

A company's Web site is a marketing communications tool. Just ask your executives to review your mission statement and marketing plan. Then ask them to show how their ideas will fit into the plan. A good Web designer will accommodate almost anything into your new site. A good marketing-oriented Web designer may help guide your executives into making the new site an effective marketing communications tool. Rather than sending your executives on an educational quest, hire a marketing-oriented Web designer to guide the project to a successful conclusion.

Erica Stritch, senior associate with Wellesley Hills Group, recommends starting the design from an information-architecture point of view rather than design. Stritch says the site should accomplish three things:

  1. Establish that you are professional—professional design, writing and flow of content

  2. Establish that you are plausible—through an overview of your products and services and tangible examples of how you have helped clients

  3. Establish you as a thought leader—through articles, tools and other resources made available through your site

It's important to get everyone on the same page for the Web redesign from the start. Sit down with the stakeholders individually and ask them what they like about the current site, what they don't like, what they want to get out of the new site, examples of sites from both a design and content perspective they like, and suggestions for improvement. Then compile everyone's responses into one document and come up with recommendations for how the new site will address each person's concerns. Doing this up-front work will set the expectations and the foundation for the redesign.

Another reader is facing a similar situation: Management offers great ideas that aren't usable. She says that explaining the basics of Web design to management helped them see their ideas weren't what their visitors needed. She clarified the main goal of the Web site is to let the visitors reach their goals in a clear and quick way.

Next Marketing Challenge: Can You Help?

Shaking life into a product at the end of its lifecycle

My product brand is an old brand in the eyes of consumers, and no proper branding campaign been carried out. Even with loyal customers, sales have dropped since competitors appearing on the market are sharing the cake. In fact, young people do not know about the brand at all. I know when products reach the end of their lifecycle they either retire or renew. We aren't ready to send our product out to pasture. How can I reposition my brand and increase sales?


If you have a general situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas, 180,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question, and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.