Departments and various other units make up organizations. Each unit has its own staff, budget and objectives. Each has its own sense of identity and independence. It’s hard for one unit of an organization to understand how another unit works.
When it comes to the Web, individual units like to have individual websites, or at least their own sections of the website.
I once tested a website where the “resources” link caused a lot of confusion. It was a classic dirty magnet link—it drew clicks for the wrong reasons and sent people in the wrong directions.
When I asked why it had this vague name, the company told me it was for a special unit of the organization that produced videos and special manuals. It would have been better to spread the unit’s content throughout the website, but the unit said it needed its own section to make its content easier to manage.
I came across a link called “tools” on an intranet that caused a lot of confusion. The company said that was where IT kept its tools (applications). “It’s easier for them to manage, and they like to have their own section,” they said.
One of the worst offenders when it comes to links is the word “solutions;” it causes much confusion. Customers come to websites with problems they want to solve—everyone wants a “solution.” It’s vague, as is the link “knowledge base.” These links nearly always reflect a particular section of the organization that has its own objectives, budget and content management system.
The latest silos have arisen around social media and apps. Often these are separate teams with separate objectives from the rest of the Web team. Breaking up your Web environment into these silos may simplify internal management, but it leads to greater complexity for the customer.
Navigation becomes confused because it needs to reflect the silos. Search gets cluttered as it delivers similar-looking results. Search for a particular product on many websites, and you will get results from product marketing, support, communities, technical documentation and social media. These results often compete with each other and have similar titles.
Often, silos don’t even realize the negative impact they have on findability. As is their nature, they live within their own worlds and see things from narrow perspectives.
If you want to operate successfully on the Web, the first rule is to think like a network, not silos. How does what you do interact with other links and content within your organization? Do the links and content you create cause confusion when they mix with other links and content?
No link is an island on the Web. No content is a silo. In a network, it pays to network. Internal cooperation and collaboration across organizational boundaries is essential for Web success.