As far as VCs go, Sequoia Capital is a legendary firm. The startups it has funded include Apple, EA, Yahoo, YouTube and a little company called Google.
That last company seems to be the inspiration for Sequoia’s newly-redesigned website, which now sports little more than a search box on its homepage.
Typing text into the search box produces an AJAX-based auto-suggest drop-down much like the one Google uses on its homepage. The drop-down is populated with Sequoia-related results, such as the names of its portfolio companies and staff members.
Clicking on a suggested result generally brings up a sparsely populated page with key details. The page for ‘Google’, for instance, states “the ultimate search engine. google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin“. Outside of a logo and a few additional details, there’s not much else. To get details about what Sequoia actually does, how it operates and how to get in touch, you have to click on one of the links contained at the bottom of each page or on the name of the relevant country after performing a search.
Now I’m all for keeping it simple and every once in a while I’ll appreciate an attempt at doing something hip but Sequoia Capital’s new website strikes me as taking both these things a little too far. The problem here is one of usability. Even if we assume that everyone Sequoia cares to make happy already knows who Sequoia is and what it does, the website is a nightmare to use efficiently. If I’m looking for a list of Sequoia’s portfolio companies, for instance, I either have to know to do a search for “portfolio“, a sector (e.g. “healthcare“) or I have to type in the name of a portfolio company I’m interested in. That’s a lot of extra work considering that a ‘Portfolio‘ link would work just fine.
Of course, one might argue that Sequoia is such a ‘leet firm that if you can’t figure out what is going on with its website (or are annoyed by the poor usability), you should look elsewhere for that $15m you’re trying to raise. But that’s a poor excuse for having a crappy website.
A good website is not designed to be hip or to show off technology and personally, I think Sequoia’s new website is a perfect example of how even those who are tech-savvy can get it wrong when it comes to creating a website that is easy-to-use and effectively conveys information. Sequoia may have one of the finest track records in the world of venture capital, but when it comes to its website, it might do well to hire a professional.