Perusing through the home page design of major pharma companies, today I arrived at Merck.com. First impression – visual overload! Lots of links and sections, not much white space, and the overall sense that it was going to be serious “work” to find what I needed here – or even to know what it is I need.
Of course, that’s a common problem with these big corporate sites, but the compulsion to toss everything into an up-front visual salad is, in my opinion, a fundamental mistake in interface design. Initial impression matters, and in the first few seconds, I, as a visitor, should somehow gain a connection to the company. Here, I just feel overwhelmed.
Merck does open up with a theme “Where patients come first”, which is actually better than some of the taglines that I’ve seen on other sites. However, there is a visual discrepancy that is just wrong – the most prominent graphic panel, top/center, has the headline “How patients come first at Merck” – but then the accompanying graphic is of healthcare professionals! If you’re going to talk about patients, reinforce that message with a visual focused on patients! (note: when you first come on the site, the panel is a little slide show making a few different points – reasonably effective, but the graphic above is where it “lands”)
As with the AstraZeneca site reviewed last time, this site is artificially constrained to accommodate least-common-denominator small-resolution screens. Sigh. The inevitable crowding effect, and the smallish font size, make the experience less pleasing.
Once you get past the home page and start navigating through the site, it’s pretty much big-pharma-info-overload-as-usual – tons of links, sections, and details, with navigation elements at the top, bottom, left, and right. That’s a lot of choices to make!
What distinguishes Merck? From this site, I simply don’t know. Yes, a website exists partially as in information repository. But, at the very top-level, it should immediately tell me about the company – make me feel something important. There should be a single, distinguishing message. I don’t see it here.
Prior website reviews:
Rick Simoni says
OK, Steve, Here is my website designer theory and my corresponding theory on website design.
If you’re familiar with DISC or other behavioral styles, software/computer people typically tend to be high S or C… analytical and “Thing” oriented.
Which means that they tend to like three vertical columns, lots of text, lots of little detail, lots of little things going on in different corners of a page, tiny jammed-in text, run-on information, almost no pictures and lots of wasted white space.
This is how they view the world, as seperate discrete details that are all very important and need to be available and accurate.
Quite often reps and others are high I and D, expressive, bottom line and “People oriented”.
They like to see a vision, get a feel, get an impression. They like full bleed photos, powerful graphics, easy to find cool stuff, credibility, limited text, labeled and chunked text that runs horizontally along the page with a ‘More” button if they’re interested. Clearly marked tabs with large, clear text. Contact info, resources/links, minimum info on a page and no scroll bars.
This is how they view the world, as a whole, that you have to get a feel for. Give them a vision, the big picture and the bottom line.
When analyticals design without input from the other styles, you get the 3 column, jammed up info, no picture design.
When expressives design with no input from the other styles, you get the great emotional pictures with no content, design.
Since more corporate sites are designed by analyticals, we tend to see more of the former type of work… rather than the latter.
Just my very un-scientific theory on website design! 🙂
Let me know what you think,