If it ain’t broke…
Why the outdated website for Berkshire Hathaway is my all-time favorite.
There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult. — Warren Buffett
There’s one website that I often frequent to keep my sanity as a designer.
A website that, in my opinion, represents some of design’s most fundamental aspects. It shows longevity, effective branding, and main. It also happens to be a website that most other designers in 2016 would absolutely gawk at.
That website is BerkshireHathaway.com.
In the event that you don’t know what Berkshire Hathaway is, they own lots of companies. Geico, Dairy Queen and Duracell are a few companies in their portfolio.
And they have a lot of money.
Like half-a-trillion-dollars-worth-of-assets money. Their founder, Warren Buffett also has a lot of money, but a large part of why investors (and regular folk) like him so much is that spends virtually none of it on himself.
Warren’s a people’s financier, seeking modesty and tranquility over the excesses of capitalism while still caring deeply about the bottom line. He’s dependable and patient, and his record of great financial decisions proves that. He’s someone you can trust your money with.
Which brings us to their website
Above is the website for one of the most influential companies on earth.
Most designers won’t be able resist the urge of calling out its aesthetic flaws. They might say it looks outdated, or that the typography is boring. That tables aren’t hip anymore or that it could be more SEO-friendly.
While all of those things might be true, these criticisms don’t carry much weight. The fact of the matter is, this site does everything it’s supposed to do for its intended audience (primarily BRK shareholders).
- It showcases all of Warren’s Shadeholder letters (which are fairly popular and surprsingly fun reads).
- Very lightweight and loads instantly
- Syntactically effective and accessible to screenreaders
- Cross browser compatible and even responsive too!
Above all, the site is a perfect reflection of the ethos of Berkshire Hathaway: Humble, unassuming, and devoid of the excesses that Warren Buffett is so philosophically against.
At the end of the day, let’s not forget that Berkshire Hathaway probably doesn’t even need a website. They’ve been doing just fine since the 70’s and there’s little return on investment with parallax headers and fancy @fontface inclusions.
Focus on what’s necessary
Is Berkshire Hathaway’s website perfect? Of course not. The navigation could use some work and I’m still not sure why there’s a Geico ad.
But consider this time-capsule of a website to be a reminder to focus on what’s most important in your designs. As websites get more complicated and as browsers get more capable, it can be easy to lose site of the overarching goal of web design: to accessibly display information.
Curbing the immediate tendency to over-design is one of the most important skills a designer can have. And while sites like Berkshire Hathaway are a dying breed, several others have managed to stand strong. These sites do so by focusing on the core focus of the service and delivering a solid, predictable experience.
I’ll leave you with a final Warren Buffett quote:
I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me.
by the author.