06
Jan
13

The Perils of Brochureware: Adrift on a Paper-thin Raft

Ask yourself what the impetus is for posting your information online. If it’s just to distribute the content of your product brochure, know that you could accomplish that with a one line link to a downloadable PDF. Since a properly formatted PDF can be scanned by search engines, your brochure content would even turn up in a targeted Google search.

So why bother building a Web site that does no more than repurpose the content and layout of an existing brochure? Maybe the answer has something to do with status. Today, “everybody” has a Web site.

Trouble is, many users already have a sophisticated understanding of—and a set of expectations for— Web site design and functionality. In such an environment a site consisting of page after page of uninterrupted text sends a clear signal: you simply don’t value your audience enough to create a viable user experience. In that context, posting a pixilated pamphlet is a sign of contempt.

And let it be said outright that “brochureware” site-design is utterly anathema to mobile devices. Inveterate smartphone users find such sites utterly useless because, even with the advent of more or less device-wide screens, they’re simply too inconvenient to navigate, scan and, ultimately, comprehend.

“Stale, flat and unprofitable…”
At a deeper level, a brochureware site sidesteps the essential nature of digital space, the very things that make it a separate medium:

• Dynamism
• Immediacy
• Relevance
• Participation
• Conversation

Web sites are, properly, action-zones and, as the medium evolves, digital space as a whole is on the cusp of becoming the first tangible instance of artificial intelligence. As such it makes no more sense to post a brochure online than it would to ask a fellow human being to read it aloud on a street corner, every hour on the hour.

Witnessing such a spectacle, most people would see it as a terrible waste of resources. And that’s exactly the sensation I get whenever I stumble across a site like the one on view at Aurasoftware.com or TheSDPGroup.com.

If you still think importing the content of your brochure is a workable option, you’ve missed a key point. Again, digital space is a different medium, not an “electronic printing press” whose main contribution is the elimination of paper and ink costs.

Selling stasis to stimulus junkies.
Beyond these arguably wonky gripes—after all, you’re free to create any kind of Web presence you please—the most tangible argument against brochureware is your audience. It’s changing rapidly, as attested by the gadgetization of American culture. The whole-hearted and, dare I say, obsessive embrace of slinky-thin tablets and wide-windowed phones points to an insatiable hunger for mental stimulation.

It’s a hunger, no less, intensified by the last three generations of dumbed-down global culture. Sure, it started in the US, but it has since spread to most of the rest of the world. In 2013 the process has reached a point where the very architecture of our minds is rebelling—quite out of our direct control. In the absence of true intellectual stimulation, today’s audience has nowhere to turn but the mental junk-food supplied by our increasingly seductive entertainment media.

Given the current state of the marketplace, if you choose to present yourself within a flat, one-dimensional interface, I can only click my tongue and wish you the best of luck. You’re piloting a thin raft on a roiling sea of vivid, instantaneous and constantly streaming entertainment—pinning your hopes on the magic beans sold you by a deluded SEO specialist.

Got all the right buzzwords on your brochureware site? Good for you. Trouble is, marketing never has been about words. Marketing is about experience, environment, rhythm, pacing and emotion. Everything, that is, you won’t find in a hyperlinked snooze fest like a brochureware Web site offering to build you an “affordable” brochureware Web site.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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