Berkshire Hathaway. Good Design?

15 Jun 2010 - 12:03pm
3 years ago
18 replies
1978 reads
n41media
2010

I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm sorry, I would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). This is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100 billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class.

Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, etc.) or do they just simply not care about design and usability?

Comments

15 Jun 2010 - 12:43pm
rjhunter
2010

Aside from visual design, which part of berkshirehathaway.com do you find unusable?

My guess is that they have been approached many times by big name and small name designers to redesign. However, my intuition is that their current website serves its purpose, to deliver Warren's shareholder letter and act as a repository of annual reports and other documents. Sure it could be prettier, but why spend $XXX,XXX on making it look pretty when it works for them.

I could be wrong, but without any supporting evidence of it performing poorly on usability, I'm just left thinking the site fits the owner.

15 Jun 2010 - 3:02pm
l.becker
2010

It's an awful site. I don't think it was deliberately set up this way as a public relations move. And I don't think that its a matter of not caring about design and usability. I think this is the case of an established firm not thinking their online presence is a priority.

I too was quite disappointed.

15 Jun 2010 - 3:05pm
JacqueHarper
2010

Same aesthetic as useit.com, isn't it? Limited number of tasks, 100% clear what to do to complete those tasks, and where the link text itself isn't descriptive enough, a short description of what's behind the link. And a warning when the link goes to something other than a web page. And freshness data, where applicable.

I'm actually mildly surprised at the space given over to advertising.

I vote for a mix and a correction of your two choices, rchaigh: deliberate, demonstrating prudence and restraint and also a real understanding of what usability is, without caring about "design" which doesn't add usability value.

Jacque Harper Senior User Experience Manager

Cars.com 175 W. Jackson Blvd, Suite 800 Chicago, IL 60604 T 312.601.5256 F 312.601.6425 Confidence Comes Standard.®

-----Original Message----- From: ixdaor@host.ixda.org [mailto:ixdaor@host.ixda.org] On Behalf Of rchaigh Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 2:07 PM To: Harper, Jacque Subject: [IxDA] Berkshire Hathaway. Good Design?

I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm sorry, I
would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). This
is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100
billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the
Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class.

Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public
relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, etc.) or do
they just simply not care about design and usability?

(

16 Jun 2010 - 12:05am
hnarsana
2010

I think the answer lies in the face that Warren Buffet and BerkshireHathway have the mission statement that talks about increasing returns for shareholders. Hence every penny (and energy) is focused on doing just that.

Until their website delivers more ROI to shareholders, it's not the focus of their design and development.

That aside, the website is fairly usable. I used to follow his yearly addresses, and it's fairly easy to find them on the site. All information is easy to find, so I don't see why it has to be so much more graphical that it already is :)

Hemanshu

On 6/16/2010 7:25 AM, JacqueHarper wrote: > Same aesthetic as useit.com, isn't it? Limited number of tasks, 100% > clear what to do to complete those tasks, and where the link text > itself isn't descriptive enough, a short description of what's behind > the link. And a warning when the link goes to something other than a > web page. And freshness data, where applicable. > > I'm actually mildly surprised at the space given over to advertising. > > I vote for a mix /and a correction/ of your two choices, rchaigh: > deliberate, demonstrating prudence and restraint and also a real > understanding of what usability is, without caring about "design" > which doesn't add usability value. > > Jacque Harper > Senior User Experience Manager > > Cars.com > 175 W. Jackson Blvd, Suite 800 > Chicago, IL 60604 > T 312.601.5256 > F 312.601.6425 > Confidence Comes Standard.® > > -----Original Message----- > From: ixdaor@host.ixda.org [mailto:ixdaor@host.ixda.org] On Behalf Of > rchaigh > Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 2:07 PM > To: Harper, Jacque > Subject: [IxDA] Berkshire Hathaway. Good Design? > > I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm > sorry, I > would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). > This > is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100 > billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the > Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class. > > Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public > relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, > etc.) or do > they just simply not care about design and usability? > > ( > > (

15 Jun 2010 - 3:05pm
johnsonfung
2010

Simply don't care about design!

On Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM, rchaigh <charles.haigh@number41media.com> wrote:

I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm sorry, I would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). This is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100 billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class.

Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, etc.) or do they just simply not care about design and usability?

15 Jun 2010 - 5:05pm
Anne Hjortshoj
2007

I dispute that this site is unusable. It's skimpy as can be, and extremely low-fi, but it's usable.

-Anne

On Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 5:39 PM, johnsonfung wrote: > Simply don't care about design! > > On Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM, rchaigh [1]> wrote: >> >> I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm sorry, >> I would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). >> This is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100 >> billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the >> Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class. >> >> Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public >> relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, etc.) or >> do they just simply not care about design and usability? >> >

15 Jun 2010 - 3:05pm
din
2008

Hi,
I think the simple site has been like that for ages. I myself was shocked at first when I first visit the site. I really don't know what was the psychology behind it. I've worked on one of the brands that Warren Buffet own - netjets.
DinManchesterwww.mereka.co.uk


On 15 June 2010 20:42, rchaigh <charles.haigh@number41media.com> wrote:

I find the official homepage of Berkshire Hathaway interesting (I'm sorry, I would love to put a link to it but this discussion tool won't let me). This is a company that has over $350 billion in assets, revenue of over $100 billion annually, and owns companies such as Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom. Yet, their website looks like it was designed by a grade 10 class.

Here is my question; do you think this was done deliberately as a public relations move (showing shareholders that they don't waste money, etc.) or do they just simply not care about design and usability?

((
15 Jun 2010 - 4:43pm
yannlossouarn
2010

Hello,

I think their design choice has nothing to do with usability. From a pure usability point of view, there's no real reason to say it's not usable. If the visitor's task is to get finance-related information about the group, there it is...

And from a graphical design point of view, simply have a look at Warren Buffett (the group's CEO) 's wikipedia page to understand :

Buffett is called the "Oracle of Omaha"[8] or the "Sage of Omaha"[9] and is noted for his adherence to the value investing philosophy and for his personal frugality despite his immense wealth.

Frugality's definition is "prudence in avoiding waste". It seems he considered having a nifty web site would have been a waste. Maybe he's right, for this site's audience ? There a lot of ways to make a good design ! ;)

Bye,
Yann

15 Jun 2010 - 5:55pm
Adam Korman
2004

For a company that has no interest/need to conduct business with its customers on the web, it seems that having a site like this (which costs virtually nothing to design, build or maintain) is a perfectly reasonable decision. Take Pepsi by contrast (and all of its associated brands). How much have they spent on their web presence over the years and why? Does anyone buy more or less soda because of a their web site?

15 Jun 2010 - 7:08pm
oliviacw
2008

I agree that it's perfectly reasonable for them to have a minimal web site.

They also have made some explicit design choices with the site - it resembles their annual report in a lot of ways (name at the top, layout, etc). They don't do a fancy annual report, so they don't do a fancy web site either.

From the UX perspective, there are some issues - navigation, for instance, is a particularly weak aspect of this site. But even so, any financial information you would wish to find is very easy to get to, and that's really its purpose.

On Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 4:50 PM, Adam Korman wrote: > For a company that has no interest/need to conduct business with its > customers on the web, it seems that having a site like this (which costs > virtually nothing to design, build or maintain) is a perfectly reasonable > decision. Take Pepsi by contrast (and all of its associated brands). How > much have they spent on their web presence over the years and why? Does > anyone buy more or less soda because of a their web site? > >

15 Jun 2010 - 6:20pm
Adam Korman
2004

-

15 Jun 2010 - 10:47pm
l.becker
2010

I am really disappointed right now. Post after post, refers to design as making something pretty. Adding no value. Not increasing sales. Funny, you can have a page like BH's -- and it will work wonderfully from a usability standpoint. But I do think that the 'design' of the page still matters -- after all you need impetus to keep someone interested enough to click the links that are nav'd so well and to explore pages that have been strung together with great care and intuition.

But, design is what creates the interest, the desire, the impetus to explore a site. I think I site fails when either usability or design is ignored. Would we all be making excuses for the lack of design on this site if it wasn't Berkshires? Would we really want our reputations attached to this as our stellar contribution to the development of the web? I certainly hope not...

Just my two cents. No offense intended...  :)

16 Jun 2010 - 2:22am
yannlossouarn
2010

lbecker said : Would we all be making excuses for the lack of design on this site if it wasn't Berkshires?

Sure we wouldn't ! But... it IS Berkshires. I did not mean that design is worth nothing. But their design perfectly fit the intent : be frugal. Being frugal is eating the minimum, to save a maximum. And maybe Mr. Buffett would invest a lot of money in a startup with a perfect graphical design, if he thinks that's an important thing for this startup ?

16 Jun 2010 - 4:11pm
Adam Korman
2004

I completely agree with this -- the context (in this case, that we're talking about Berkshire Hathaway) matters. A decision like this (which I think is fine for them) is not going to be appropriate for many (if any) other companies. The site is not aesthetically interesting, it's not perfectly organized or usable, but it's usable enough to find the info they want to make available, and it does actually express/reflect their brand.

That doesn't mean it is good design, but sometimes design doesn't matter. 

16 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
burlapdesign
2010

Design always matters, aesthetics might not. Design is amount other things allowing your data/information to do its work. Design affects communication and you cannot not communicate.



On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 5:40 PM, Adam Korman <adamk@flexid.com> wrote:

I completely agree with this -- the context (in this case, that we're talking about Berkshire Hathaway) matters. A decision like this (which I think is fine for them) is not going to be appropriate for many (if any) other companies. The site is not aesthetically interesting, it's not perfectly organized or usable, but it's usable enough to find the info they want to make available, and it does actually express/reflect their brand.

That doesn't mean it is good design, but sometimes design doesn't matter. 

(
16 Jun 2010 - 6:05pm
burlapdesign
2010

btw as relates to the site. I do cringe at its lack of visual appeal but good design is judged first, not by aesthetics, but does it get the job the client wants done. In this case you can get to the info fairly simply. Can it be better organized? Sure nothing is perfect, especially on the web.



On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 5:50 PM, D Ross <burlapdesign@dillonross.info> wrote:

Design always matters, aesthetics might not. Design is amount other things allowing your data/information to do its work. Design affects communication and you cannot not communicate.



On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 5:40 PM, Adam Korman <adamk@flexid.com> wrote:
I completely agree with this -- the context (in this case, that we're talking about Berkshire Hathaway) matters. A decision like this (which I think is fine for them) is not going to be appropriate for many (if any) other companies. The site is not aesthetically interesting, it's not perfectly organized or usable, but it's usable enough to find the info they want to make available, and it does actually express/reflect their brand.

That doesn't mean it is good design, but sometimes design doesn't matter. 

(
17 Jun 2010 - 9:20am
joelkline
2010

I love the discussion and the perspectives.

In this case, it seems like usability is a universal issue but aesthetic design is an audience issue. While the taxonomy could be improved, it is not terrible. So the site's usability is ok.

The aesthetic is bleak but it resounds with their corporate ethos and the majority of the people who reach the site already understand the Buffet model. I agree with several other posters (Pepsi example is perfect) that Warren Buffet will improve the website when someone demonstrates to him that redesign will improve company value, stock price or some measurable ROI. I suspect Buffet's attitude is "people buy BH for the ROI, not for the website..."

17 Jun 2010 - 9:33am
kemoore
2007

I found one aspect of this site distractingly unusable: on a large-but-not-unusual monitor, the lines of type in Buffet's letter are too wide to read easily. I had to resize my browser to a more plausible line-width to read it comfortably. It would be easy to use a little css to prevent this.

Someone mentioned useit.com. I respect and use Nielsen's work, but his home page isn't as readable as it should be. The type is enormous, but the line heights are much too stingy for this face, which has enormous counters. And like the Berkshire Hathaway site, it does nothing to prevent the lines from becoming unreadably long on the larger monitors so many people now use. Interior pages deal with this better.

Saying that sometimes (aesthetic?) design doesn't matter shouldn't be an excuse for ignoring aspects of usability that relate to basic typography, but many usability people have no knowledge of typography and regard even its basics as an aesthetic frill. This is sad and almost funny because it leads to such glaring blind spots.


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