Being proactive in the early stages of a project could mean the difference between frustration and achievement.
I’m in the midst of wrapping up an ExpressionEngine project for one of our clients. During the process it dawned on me: The biggest mistake one can make as a designer or developer is not defining the ‘Content.’
I’ve been fortunate with this project because I had a very simple task: Take an existing site we created, roll the content into a Content Management System and create new templates. The design was created by another design studio who has written the book (or multiple books) on web design, and that has been a treat. So I had three skeletons or specification to work with: predefined content, full site-map and detailed style sheet.
This project came together quickly—like playing Connect-the-Dots, mapping the current content to the new styles in EE. It allowed me to focus on larger development issues, and while we continue testing, we are a lot closer to launching than we could have been.
Don’t Work in the Dark
When you create something blind, without guideline or a real skeleton, you are putting yourself in a situation where you will end up doing more work later. Even worse, you could potentially strain the client/customer relationship.
Before you begin creating wireframes, stylesheets, entry fields or templates you should ask for sample content. While it doesn’t need to be finalized, the content needs to be detailed so you can make style decisions. Will this require multiple heading tags? Will I need to use <cite> or <dfn> attributes, or will <blockquote> suffice? Do I needed to create one entry field or three? How much time do I need to set aside coding/styling items?
Creating defined formatting will strengthen the content, not limit your flexibility. The formatting will bring an internal consistency to your website, helping differentiate types of content and ultimately enhancing the visitor experience. Defined formatting has another inherent benefit: It’s DEFINED. You have logic and reasoning building around the formatting, things you can then explain to a client while you present them your ideas.
This should help you get your client to say ‘yes’ to your ideas, just asHeadscapes’ Paul Boag said to a crowd earlier this month at the Future of Web Design conference in New York. From that point on in the project, there should be fewer surprises, and that means you’ll spend less time creating/building new or missing elements.
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