Understanding the Scope of Web Projects
If you’re like many of the clients who come to us for help with their websites, it is often hard to get your arms around just what is involved. We’ve found that some analogies to things everyone is familiar with—building a house, and planting a gardent‐are often helpful.
Sheds, Houses, and Showplaces
If you want to build a storage shed, you may be able to do it all yourself, or a carpenter may be able to design and build it. This is the basic 6-page static website. If you’re a small business with limited budget and simple needs, it may be just fine.
If you are building a house, however, it is more than a one-person task. First, you probably want to use an architect. The architect specializes in design, and has a different set of skills and talents than the contractor who will build the house. If your house is simple and your budget limited, a single contractor might handle all aspects of the work, but more likely you’ll need a general contractor who can bring in a plumber, electrician, roofer, and painter.
You’ll also want to fill your website with content—the furniture in your house. For a large site, wrangling all the content can be as big a task as the technical construction. You may be able to do it yourself if you have the time and inclination, but professional help can simplify your life and lead to a better result.
Websites Are Like Gardens
The building analogy, while helpful, can also be misleading. In many ways, websites are more like gardens than like buildings. Creating a great website is an ongoing process, not an event.
To create a beautiful garden, you begin with a design, but you don’t expect that design to encompass every detail of what the eventual landscape will be. You want to get the ‘bones’ in place, creating a structure that will support years of evolution. You do a first planting that gets the garden started, but over time you’ll need to prune, weed, and add more plants, as the garden evolves and you learn what works and what doesn’t for your particular setting.
Many websites suffer from being treated as buildings, instead of like gardens. A lot of effort goes in at the beginning, and then it just sits. Content gets out of date, and needs change but aren’t reflected in changes on the site. Content gets tacked on to meet immediate needs, and, over time, the design is degraded—much like the brilliantly designed landscape that is marginally maintained and gets the odd new plant inserted from time to time.
Don’t Take the Analogy Too Far
As with most analogies, this one too fails in some ways. One of the glories of gardening is that you don’t need to know how the plants do their magic, creating amazing growth and flowers; you just tend to their basic needs, and their genetics do the rest. In a very few cases, such as community-driven sites where users provide most of the content, this analogy holds.
Most websites, however, don’t evolve on their own, or grow on their own into something more wonderful than what you started with. It is up to the website team to make all the improvements; waiting for it to blossom into something incredible, all on its own, is not fruitful.
If you are considering a website project, it is worth thinking deeply about what you want to create, and how it will evolve. Is it a shed, a modest house, or a showplace home? Then make sure you have the budget and the team to deliver on your vision.
Topics: Web Design