Grab a seat, pardner…. Remember when hayrides were fun? You could sit back and hang your feet off the back of the wagon. You didn’t know where you were going and you really didn’t care.
Now, you will care because USWest.com is going to take you on one of those trips you wish you never took.
The adventure begins and the driver is always in control as he keeps the horse from wandering over to munch on the fodder that lay beyond the trail. The driver is definitely in control… until the driver falls asleep and the horse wanders whatever it wants.
This same nonchalant attitude has taken hold of USWest.com. The driver has fallen asleep and has let the horse guide the online brand. This attitude may be okay for a hayride, but when it comes to the serious business of getting a DSL line installed, it doesn’t work too well.
USWest has been running huge print and online campaigns in my area advertising its new MegaBit service (its brand name for a DSL). For you who don’t know a DSL from a Diesel, DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. Allowing high-speed access to the Internet over the same phone wires being used now, things are so fast you can zap yourself up to Mars in two seconds. Hell, the pizza guy down the street won’t have to deliver anymore because you will now be able to download slices directly through his WWW page.
After hearing the USWest Megabit ads, I salivate as I log onto the USWest.com web site. My fingers are trembling as the site begins to load. I cannot wait to get that DSL line installed and curl my hair with all the bandwidth.
The first page is very simple and directs me to a few areas within the USWest web site. Simple look, but I would have expected more of a tie in to its tagline: “Life’s better here.” When you roll your mouse over the left navigation bar, the navigation buttons switch to show subcategories within the sections. Nice concept, but it seems a bit slopped together.
I came here for their Megabit DSL service (you know the one that they are running these huge campaigns about). But a link to their Megabit DSL service is nowhere to be found. So I enter DSL in the search window and it brings up something about Megabit service. So I click on the link… and what the ^*&^* happened?
The entire screen turns blue and I am taken to the Megabit site. It’s a totally different look from the USWest home page and rest of the site. Confusion sets in and I start to think I have come across a broken link.
I go into the blue Megabit page and click on availability, which takes me to a page that is totally different from anything I have seen so far. (My hypothesis is confirmed. The horse is definitely driving the wagon now.) The interface background turns back to white again, but the look and feel of the navigation has taken another direction. (Is it possible to have more than one horse driving the wagon at the same time?)
This new page asks me to input my phone number so it can check for availability in my area. It says it’s available in my area, directing me to an order page…
The order page asks me to enter my phone number and some other info to allow me to order the service. I enter the phone number again (along with other info), and then it checks the line while I wait. (Didn’t we just do this?) Yet it says NOW that it’s incompatible! I am confused. The blue Megabit page says it is compatible, and the white Megabit ordering page says it isn’t. I thought technology was supposed to make our lives simpler. (Judging by USWest’s attempt, it is not going to do it anytime soon.)
I bail out of the USWest.com site and need to talk to a human at USWest. I figure the best way to do this is to look it up in the USWest Yellow Pages. I have heard these radio ads for USWest’s online yellow page USWestDex.com. So I bring up the page, and it looks like the horse has had his way here, too. The USWestDex.com site is quite different from the USWest.com site.
Truth and Dare
To make a long story short, DSL is not available in my area because of technical issues. They plan to upgrade the phone lines but not for at least a year. The trip that sent me meandering through multitudes of dueling designs and technology on the USWest web site was a trip I could have done without.
You would think with all the money USWest has to spend on campaigns, it would figure out how to get a coherent interactive marketing campaign that integrates with its offline efforts. Maybe if they stopped spending so much money on these huge campaigns, they could probably even meet the demand for DSL lines.
Who is in control of the USWest online brand? When you employ the design direction of a site, it should be followed throughout the entire site, and that look should fit into the rest of your corporate look and feel as well. Where is your online brand going?
USWest.com has a major problem deciding what its look and feel should be. The first USWest.com page has a very simple look and feel with navigation on the left and content in the middle. You would expect some semblance of continuity throughout, yet there are some problems The USWest.com horse is just meandering wherever it wants to go when it comes to design.
Alert the driver that the horse has taken over and has deviated from the main trail .and make sure the online brand stays focused with some good design direction..
Truth and Dare Rating
2 stars out of 5
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