HBR’s Makeover Needs a Makeover

by Jay Deragon on 11/10/2014

HBRLast month Harvard Business Review (HBR) announced they would be releasing a new makeover of the HBR web site. Last week the makeover was revealed and purely from a user’s perspective (is there any other perspective?) the new makeover needs a new makeover.

Sorry. the makeover seemed to take away instead of adding value

I visit HBR every day (or used to) and in particular the HBR Blog network. I found the authors and their articles informative, educational and enlightening for the most part but then again who am I.

I don’t know about you and maybe it is simply me and my lack of education from Harvard but when I engage with the new HBR web site interface several immediate problems occur. Here are a few:

  1. The load time initially was beyond slow and many times it didn’t load. As of this morning they seemed to have resolved that however the new site doesn’t support I.E. 8 or less. You have to upgrade your browser. In case HBR didn’t know I.E. 8.1 has had slow adoption so most of the browsers out there are 8.0 or less…
  2. Once it loads you are limited to accessing 5 articles unless you subscribe to the site then you are limited to no more than 15 articles a month. Of course you can get full unlimited access if you are a paying subscriber to the HBR magazine. I am not sure previous users will embrace these new restrictive rules that seem somewhat “anti-social”… What happen to sharing knowledge freely? Did Harvard suddenly decide to restrict knowledge while the rest of the world is sharing it openly? I am just asking.
  3. What if someone shares an article on LinkedIn of interest and a user tries to click through to read the article but they have already read their limit for the month? I think in the old days they called that “trapping” or a marketing technique called “bait and switch”. Today it is simply considered foolish.
  4. In the old design you could quickly tell what articles were the most read for the day or week. I found that meter as a good indicator of some level of quality and regularly looked at it. That feature is now gone so now visitors have no idea what is or isn’t popular to the overall audience. No big deal I suppose but maybe it is for some or many.
  5. Another indicator of possible value was how many times an article was shared on LinkedIn. That would at least indicate that a number of people felt the article was worthy of sharing with their network on LinkedIn which in turn drew my attention to it. That feature no longer exist so users are left to wonder and sorting through dozens of choices while wasting lots of time.

Now these five points are just a few examples of bad design and a poor launch of a “new makeover by HBR” in my opinion. Disappointing to say the least especially when the word “Harvard” carries the connotation of educated, smart, intelligent people who are at the top of the stratosphere of education. But even those at the top sometimes don’t think effectively about how these engagements affects the end customers experience with a service. Think of some of the horror stories of the Fortune 500 over the last five years. Isn’t Harvard where most of the Fortune 500 CEO’s graduated from? Just saying…

This proposed makeover should have been vetted with a sample user group, tested in all browsers and the issue of limited access to 5 or 15 articles per month….well go figure what value does HBR get out of that rule….more subscriptions to the magazine? I think not!

I love the authors and the content in HBR. I learn a lot from them and gain the insights I seek to expand my view of the evolving ecosystems of business. However, it appears as though HBR forgot to think through the engagement experience of their makeover and the implications of some of the things I’ve pointed out.

Then again it could be that I don’t have enough education to understand the thinking that went into this makeover. On the other hand maybe the thinking that went into this makeover needs a makeover. What say you?

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