Sympathy for the Web Developer, Compassion for the Client

Sympathy for the Web Developer, Compassion for the Client

By Joel Barker

We have made a lot of web sites. However, I had resisted web development as outside of the Lion’s Way core value proposition. Now, I understand that it is a critical part of the service we offer. I had to look at sites and site design differently.

I had to figure out what a site needs to do today and how we can bring our value to a client’s website. I have come to understand that the value we offer is not just design, development, and writing chops applied to a business problem. Websites are hard not for any of those reasons. They are hard because of how important the home page has become — and how personally important they are to all the stakeholders. People know that their website is the first or second impression someone has of their business.

They want to get all their best points across there. They want their own work identity to be seen in that first impression. Often, organizations discover internal disconnects when we start developing messaging.

  • The sales people may think we should highlight past success.
  • The operations team want to focus on new capabilities.
  • The CEO wants to surpass the chief competitor’s design.

I don’t think I will ever say that we have the perfect web design process. That’s not possible. We keep learning and experimenting. Consistently, we try to surface all of the stakeholder’s values early. Very frequently, something really critical comes up after the sandbox site is up with approved copy and the specified design. Sometimes the team feels flummoxed. “We did everything they asked. Why are the goalposts changing?”

It is important to stop there, take a breath, and understand what is happening; people are asking for buy-in. They want to get behind the final site. They want it to belong to the whole company. The worst mistake would be to try to force someone to like it. That reduces the overall value of the site by disenfranchising someone who needs to stand behind the final product.

The web is changing, and if you have not done a site in the last five years you need to be ready for a new approach. Mobile-first responsive design has created a new emphasis on web content over visuals. If you start your development process with an astounding visual that looks good on a Retina monitor but is excised from the mobile viewer’s experience, you lose control of your message. Half your audience is missing that visual experience you worked so hard to bring about.

Content “First”

If you make sure that the core message is in the text, then every viewer comes away with the same understanding. That’s a core driver for a content first approach. However, we have found that the design is what rallies the stakeholders. It has to also be evocative for everyone. We won’t be successful if we don’t show any design until the last minute. Lion’s Way drives the conversation with content, but we bring design to the table pretty quickly. Now, that design conversation has the added dimension of the stripped down mobile version.

It’s muddled, it can be messy. These projects are emotional and non-linear.

I embrace web development for our clients now. I think that it is a critical service and that we can bring a lot of value by understanding what the company needs to evoke and get it out there. We maintain our agnosticism to platforms; we neither hate nor love WordPress, Squarespace, static solutions, or anything.

Currently, we are updating our approach to website creation. It is encouraging us to look critically at our assumptions. I love the challenge. Watch this space for further explorations of website creation the Lion’s Way.

(Sorry for the cheesy closer. Our name lends itself to such braggadocio.)

Joel Barker is Lion’s Way founder and creative director. Lion’s Way creates the content (ebooks, case studies, web copy, videos, documentation) that feeds technology and business to business marketing, sales, and client communication. If you want to talk content, reach out!

Main image Creative Commons by Gallen-Kallelan Museo.