There’s a saying: The cobbler’s children have no shoes. You hear variations on the theme across a whole slew of fields: the carpenter’s cupbords are unfinished; the teacher’s still working on her book; and, of course, the scrappy web developer’s site is under construction.
When we started Switchyard almost a year ago (!) we spent considerable time working on the messaging behind our first public site, dedicating those hours to both presenting a fresh face and honing our service offerings. The identity of that site was part “What skills and philosophy do we bring to projects?” and part “What kind of projects do we want to attract?”.
A lot of companies our size have to go through a similar process of internally developing that first public site. You focus your own time and mental resources creating every detail, from word choice to development framework to detailed CSS work. You completely own the identity, but at the same time you risk losing perspective.
So this time around we decided to hire a designer to take the reins and guide us. It seems bizarre at first, like a mechanic taking his car into the shop for a tuneup. But we decided it would be better for us to concentrate our energy on client work, first of all, and perhaps more importantly we wanted to get an outside opinion on our ideas, or design concept, and copy. We contracted Daniel Christopher of LucentPDX to create the designs and implement them in WordPress.
Personally, I enjoyed being the client for a while. Not only were we able to observe a design approach different from our own (and learn some good ideas/approaches/philosophies), but we were also able to spend time in our own clients’ shoes. I was reminded of how difficult it is to create all the content necessary for a successful launch. For example, we didn’t maintain a blog on our first site. We were writing, but the copy we created didn’t have an audience, and the purpose for writing was less clear. Now, as we approach the launch date, deadlines become a very real thing. I think it’s important for businesses like Switchyard to check in every so often and see projects from other angles.
The process comes to fruition this week when we release the updated site. Overall, the project has yielded the desired results. For this iteration, Switchyard was able to spend more energy on the content itself rather than on the actual implementation. And by relieving any one individual from inside the company from being responsible for the look and feel, we were able to be more honest about those elements we liked and those which needed to disappear.