I got home from the Chicago trip a couple of days ago, and of course was faced with a bucket load of work and so haven’t had a chance until now to write up my trip and my reactions to it.
I’m not certain that the work was terribly effective. The day when you first meet with a new crowd of people, it can take a while until you start working efficiently together. Everyone is sort of feeling their way a little bit to see who has something intelligent to say, who should be listened to, and who perhaps should just be nodded at occasionally and smiled at. Once that process was out of the way we did start to get some real work done. There are some very, very smart people in this group, and I think it can go very well.
As is always the case with these kind of meetings, everyone really wants to talk about how the website will look, about the typeface, about clever bits of technology and about all the bells and whistles that are exciting about websites. But until we decide exactly what the website is supposed to achieve, all of that is irrelevant.
Separating form and function is, in my experience, the most important part of getting a big web project completed. It just doesn’t matter what the site looks like or what technology we are going to use to build it, if we haven’t decided “Who is the site for?”, “What information do they want to get from the site?”, and “Who is going to be feeding the side with content?”
It is possible that I may have bored a couple of people with my constant refrain of “Yes, but what do you want the site to do?” Fortunately, there were enough people who had the same mindset as me. I think part of the problem is that some of the local franchises don’t have any techies on their marketing staff and so the person they had sent from marketing was coming at it from a different angle to those of us who yes, work for marketing, but are in fact more involved in the technical side of things.
But by the end of the two days we had managed to hammer out a pretty effective plan of action, and it was agreed the next meeting will be in a couple of months. By that point, we will have completed user surveys in local franchises and will have a much better sense of what exactly the website is supposed to achieve.
Oh, Chicago? It was great fun, and in a future post I’ll talk about the great restaurant we ate at downtown.