After spending seven months writing content and managing development for a new website for GeoEngineers, I was ecstatic when the site launched today.

Taaa-daaaaa! I’m very proud of the end results of my first really big website experience, and even more glad that it’s done at last. (My brain is toast.)

“Done” is relative when it comes to websites, it turns out. When I managed print projects, there always came a moment when they were, in fact, done: printed, folded, boxed and delivered. My print-related friends know how much I loved the tangibility of holding a finished printed product in my hands and examining it. I could assess its successes, learn from its flaws, and call it good.

But websites aren’t finite or tangible, and I am learning that they don’t really wrap up in the same way print projects do. I had already received suggestions for major design revisions and additions before the thing had even hit the street!

Experiencing New Dimensions

There are other differences, too, new dimensions to consider. Yes, I’ve still needed to think both about the visual aspects and the functional ones, just like I did for print projects, but the functions and interconnections have proven to be so much more complex on this site than on even my most complex print campaign:

  • What tagging choices will reinforce the desired interconnections between one part of the content and another?
  • How often should a fresh selection of connections display?
  • Are we getting the expected relationship results?

My colleague and I found the abstractness of the tagging vocabularies challenging to wrap our heads around until we experimented with them.

  • Where will the visitor go next? Are we leading him/her toward any dead ends? Are the choices logical? Thank goodness for an expertly created design and wireframes, but all these things must still be checked.
  • Is the site design legible, with adequate contrast, even for color-blind viewers?
  • Is the development mapping to the design, and are adjustments needed?
  • Does the site work? (How many ways can I break it?)

Then there’s the matter of the content:

  • Is the copy cohesive in tone? Structure and presentation?
  • Do the captions work with the stories?
  • Is everything spelled and punctuated correctly? How easily errors sneak in!
  • What about the behind-the-scenes things it’s easy to forget? What should search results screens say? Courtesy confirmation emails? All of it adds to (or detracts from) the visitor experience.

What details could possibly be missing at this point? There are hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from on a single website. After our team spent months working on and checking the site, our trusty previewers identified nearly 600 more things for us to review again, correct, or consider adding/changing.

Some skills transferred, new ones learned

I can report that my skills as a trained visualizer and project manager have transferred as well as I had hoped they would. My penchant for detail has, too. My ability to run everything through a mental branding filter has been a boon.

My abstract thinking abilities have expanded. My web vocabulary has, too, (from “hover state” to “pager” to “taxonomy”), along with a much more intimate familiarity with the concepts—thanks to one extremely patient web developer, Brad Wressell.

The GeoEngineers website, built in Drupal, designed by Fell Swoop and developed by Sixteen Penny, is at once an experience, a thing, and a tool for creating more of a thing and experience. How cool is that? Please visit the site at GeoEngineers.com.

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