Cold Spring Design Inc.
15 Griggs Road
Sutton, MA 01590


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Content, Design, and Deadlines

Monday, Nov. 1st 2010

Want to see our web designer get frustrated? Ask him to design a website without content. Chris doesn’t get angry with me — not at first. It’s more of a “how can you be so stupid” expression that crosses his face. I’ve got 10 years of web design experience, having handled every part of sales, project management, copywriting, design, build, etc. And I’m finally ready to give up and just agree with him. How can I be so stupid?

For those of you who know the ins and outs of web design, you might want to jump to the next paragraph, since this isn’t rocket science. Designing a good website involves knowing something about what the site will be about. There’s both knowledge about the company or service in general and specific detail about products or services. There’s the people involved, who they are, what they do and how to contact them. There’s results, case studies and various forms of proof that things can get done, and done well. There are existing logos and color palettes, photos, graphical themes and already established visual identities. There’s more — it’s all content. It, combined with the website design, makes your site special.

While in college I took a couple courses in operations research as part of my engineering degree. It was pretty cool stuff, too, since it was immediately obvious how applicable it would be to real life. Problems of bottlenecks, throughput, routing, scheduling and optimization are part of all our personal and professional lives. Now, I hope most of you don’t break out mathematical formulas when trying to figure the best way through the grocery store. Or which errands to run in which order. Or even how to most efficiently manage the development of a website. I don’t know that a calculator is really necessary. But an understanding of how to efficiently run a process is certainly useful.

A simplified website involves content and design. Two separate paths. At the end of the two paths, they combine as the website is built and populated with content. So for years I tried to run projects efficiently and worked with my clients in gathering and developing content while we designed the website. The problem is that this method yields less than ideal websites! I won’t say they were all crappy sites since we’ve put together some pretty good ones over the years without having content in hand, but they weren’t anything like they could be, that’s for sure.

Why? Lots of reasons

  • Design space can’t be well allocated without knowing what the content will be.
  • Marketing copy can’t be used as relied on for critical impact if you haven’t seen the copy.
  • Photos? Who’s supplying them and what will they be about. Good luck with that.

There are many more reasons as well, but that short list will do to prove the point. If the content isn’t ready before the design of the site starts, the resulting website will be less than optimal. I was right about operations research being a cool subject, but I demonstrated my lack of knowledge about design in how I arranged things. Thanks to Chris’s persistence, Cold Spring operates under a different system now and our results speak for themselves.

Posted by Jeff Lerman | in Project Management, Web Design | Comments Off on Content, Design, and Deadlines
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