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Don't outsource, says Jakob Nielsen
Article found in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald

 6:01 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

I found this in this morning's paper (er... website actually).

Outsourcing your website design is bad for your business. At least, that's the view of Web design and usability expert Jakob Nielsen of US-based Nielsen Norman Group, a consultancy that specialises in helping companies to evaluate and restructure their Web strategies.

Rest of the article:



 6:55 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

I am surely preaching to my own choir, but I think design/contect/SEO should ideally all be done in-house. (I agree about all the more difficult technical stuff being outsourced)

We add, alter, re-word, re-emphasise content daily, we change certain design elements very frequently, all relating to internal and external (understandabilty/unclearness/incompleteness/usability) comments/remarks. If one of my engineers cannot explain a client over the phone how to simultaneously navigate through our site we have a problem. If the client lags behind in the process because one of our pages loads to slowly on the clients dial-up, we will know and change immediately. These type of exercises give excellent feed-back and it integrates all co-workers into the process and necessity of presenting our information at its best. All my key workers look and discuss our statistics.

Same goes for SEO, I would doubt an independant SEO'er could ever fully explain the total arena of SEO and the need for budget and time to a client (at least for small/medium sized companies).
If someone would have presented me beforehand with the budget - a quater of the size of what we already spent internally - I would have ignorantly sent him away immediately. You have to grow into this costly but worthwhile addiction.

A good part of "SEO" would nowadays comprise finding very good links towards your site from related directories, associations and similar sites. Understanding to whom and how to word the request for a link, or what to write in the "add-url-form" regarding descriptions, headings, title links etc is very company/sector specific - also usability wise and should vary with every site you are asking a link from.

For a small/medium sized company, I would hire an experienced (usability) webdesigner/seo'er and make him CEO, either that or the current CEO should migrate into the other..luckily my competitor owners/directors have no idea what impact the above all can make! ;).


 7:09 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Interesting... although proper and detailed planning (storyboarding) is the key to successful design and usability, not whether you outsource or not.

"It must be viewed as an integrated part of your company," Nielsen said. "If you hire (a supplier) to do it, they don't know your customers well . . . To them the customer is you, the one who signs their cheques."

I think what he meant to say is... "when outsourcing projects the supplier must be furnished with precise details about your mission objectives, customers needs and services, and a comprehensive understanding of your online goals."

"As you sign the cheques, you control the process, and should you leave this up to the supplier, the deliverables will likely resemble that which best accommodates the suppliers customers and not yours".

In the end... and in a perfect world, every business should have every process conducted inhouse with all the appropriate skills and expertise, since your interest are usually best served by you.

However, in this reality you would be broke.


 7:59 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hmmm, so people should not outsource Usability Testing, in which case Jakob is out of business. Hmmm..



 8:19 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

...your interest are usually best served by you.

That hasn't been my experience with clients. At every size, from small through medium to the largest I've worked with, they have an amazing ability to do 95% of all things well and then shoot themselves in the foot for the last 5%.

Most companies are too self-involved and need an outside eye to give them a reality check. However, pure "outsourcing" -- at least of the turn-key variety -- is a lousy idea.

The synergy unlocked [sorry for the buzz word] by combining expertise in web development and web marketing with a company's knowledge base [ooh, another buzzword] is where the magic lies.


 9:57 am on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> That hasn't been my experience with clients.

Amen, tedster. Most of my client base couldn't write a worthwhile website if they shut down the factory for a year, and did nothing else. Most of them are only just barely capable of using the most basic functions of a computer.

Similarly, I know next to nothing about the overwhelming majority of what they do. I couldn't make a widget if you paid me one million pounds

>> in a perfect world, every business should have every process conducted inhouse with all the appropriate skills and expertise

Yup. But then, who said life was fair? In reality companies do what they do, and buy in what they don't. Its what keeps a lot of us in business here.

I think Jakob is really having a sly dig at hmmmm, shall we say "differently competent" web design companies, who ought not to be in business, because their work is frankly poor.

I'm sure we've all come across the potential client with the 5 page site that was coded (badly) in FP, with 3 images on the front page (totalling 210k), and a JavaScript menu (that doesn't work, except in NN3, the last browser that the designer d/loaded), for which some outrageous sum was charged.

Then you pitch up, trying to sell him a redesign, probably talking the same talk as the last guy.... it can be hard to overcome those bad memories though. When the client is cut off from the process of design, thats when things go wrong, IMO.

Too many designers don't take a proper brief, they just decide what THEY would like, and do it. Then they are surprised when the client doesn't like it ("Pink?!? Flopsy bunny rabbits?*! We're a heavy engineering company! We make turbines!" "Well, I think it looks cute. That'll be 5,000,000 please")

Web designers of the world, I implore you; consult with your clients occasionally. Sometimes, they have ideas too and sometimes you can talk them out of those ideas, for the sake of everyones sanity :)


 3:04 pm on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Since the advice is from Jakob Nielsen, leader of the un-designed web site movement, I suppose the in-house comment makes sense.

I think in an ideal world, doing it in house WOULD make sense - if you could afford to hire the right people. In reality, many of the firms I've worked with have no clue as to how their customers might use the web to find them, access information, and place orders. They have the product knowledge, but not the usability knowledge. Certainly, though, going outside for a one-time design effort has led many companies, to static, out-of-date, inflexible, and boring web sites. Entering into an ongoing partnership with a skilled web firm is the way to go, IMO.


 3:32 pm on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think you've got a point there rogerd. I'm only active on these forums for a few weeks now, but my own experience (only going back 4 years now--which is nothing compared to some of you) tells me that in-house can be worse than outsourcing.

I have a rather large customer who has outsourced to an advertising firm they work with for 10 years now--it's almost in-house and it's just as bad. These people know about design and flashy graphics, but the word 'content' doesn't mean anything to them, and neither does the acronym SEO.

Personally, I think Nielsen is right about a lot of things, but now missing something.


 3:38 pm on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree with most of the guys here that in-house can be the best way to go most of the time but it is impractical and largely unnecessary. Once again I find myself disagreeing with Nielsen and wondering why he is held in such high regard..


 4:30 pm on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nielsen has some excellent knowledge, but for some reason he seems to overstate it.


 4:40 pm on Aug 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Welll....I guess if you adhered to his "design" theories, you could put 4th graders on staff to do the web work.

I'm pretty sure he just shot himself in the foot, I can't imagine any web designer/developer giving him an ounce of credibilty after that statement.

Jacob Who!?

misspelling intentional (jacob is more usable/friendly than the funny spelling he uses).

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