Stands Out for Integration, but Does Poorly on Some Key Usability Guidelines

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You almost can’t have a dinner party without someone making a “Martha Stewart” comment at some point during the evening. Beyond being a mere household name, Martha Stewart has become synonymous with home decorating, cooking and gardening-bringing beauty to all things domestic. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc (MSLO), is an integrated media company distributing the “art of everyday living” to us in many different channels, broken down into business segments:

  • Publishing – Magazines (Martha Stewart Living, Martha Stewart Weddings, Everyday Food, Body + Soul, etc..), Books, DVDs and syndicated newspaper columns
  • Broadcasting – MARTHA on the Style Network, Everyday Food on PBS, Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius, etc…
  • Merchandising – Home and garden products, Signature paint colors etc…
  • Internet/eCommerce – websites sell advertising against content, also direct sales through the Martha Stewart Store and Martha Stewart Flowers

All these channels circle and promote each other, as Martha talks about her paint color used in the kitchen on her show, advertisers buy across the media outlets, content can be re-purposed in books and DVDs, and so on.

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Looking at it from this point of view, the usability of the site has a potentially big impact on the other business segments, so what did Terri Edmonston find when she did a website design review of Martha’ site?

  • Great online video and content integration
  • Weak usability in navigation and affordance
  • Simplistic community tools

The video segments are hands-down the most impressive part of the site. From the first page, visitors can’t help but be sucked in to watching some MARTHA segments on the streaming video. The low points in the review are found in basic usability-the form-over-function values of the designers leaves affordance behind. While there is a nice garden of content to explore, the path is unnecessarily rocky. is also a site with great potential in terms of community. The current online community offerings, message boards, are not sufficient. However, the company has announced plans to create new functionalities, much like MySpace, for their target audience of 25- to 45-year-old women. Their strong brand has created an existing community-minded following that is desperate for an outlet. The site re-launch is scheduled for Fall of 2007 and hopefully we’ll come back then to see this scorecard grade greatly improved.


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