I was on the Berkshire Hathaway site the other day and was amazed out how simple - I mean really simple - the site was.

September 1, 2021


5min read

Sam Frentzel-Beyme

Relationships & Revenue

When 1997 Design is Still Good Enough

The Short of It

  • There are a few organizations where the actual product or service is so innovative that how the information is communicated is almost a non-issue.
  • Berkshire Hathaway is one of those companies.
  • Not all companies can be like Berkshire Hathaway.

I was on the Berkshire Hathaway site the other day and was amazed out how simple - I mean really simple - the site was. It was kind of a modified Craiglist of sorts. Here’s what it looks like today.

With such a simple design, I wonder what could have really changed. The answer is not much. Heading back to 1997 (courtesy of the Internet Archive), we find Berkshire Hathaway in this format.

This is the design for a holding company that according to Forbes 2000 report in 2012 was the eighth largest public company in the world with over 260,000 employees spread across 55 different subsidiaries generating over $140b in revenues.

What makes Berkshire Hathaway unique, aside from have a chairman and CEO in Warren Buffett who is described as a “Wizard”, “Oracle”, or “Sage” (along with being one of Time’s 2012 most influential people in the world), is that it’s a conglomerate company. But out of the Forbes 2000 report, it’s not the only one. GE, the number three company, is the other conglomerate and they look like this.

Definitely more vibrant and dynamic. And that makes sense since even though GE is spread across multiple industries the core GE brand is consumer facing. Which means that when anyone has a question about GE, the first place they are going to look is ge.com and that site needs to reflect the more human connection that GE is trying to make between people and technology (thus their tagline, “Imagination at Work”).

So when would it be okay to leave your site like it was in 1997? Here are five things that will probably allow you to get away with it.

1. You’re target market only cares about the numbers (one could argue that investors want the bottom line only).

2. You’re credibility is so high that you could probably get away with having no site at all.

3. You don’t sell physical products to consumers.

4. You have proven track record of significantly exceeding your competitors.

5. You’re personally known for your personal frugality.

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