Dear Mr. Architect / Builder
I’m looking for someone to design and build me a new home. You were recommended to me and I have seen some houses you worked on which were really just what we are looking for.
We would like a house which looks really impressive - the design should be modern and contemporary - maybe like a Huf Haus, but it should also exude a traditional cottage style….tudoresque would be nice.
Our current home is really not to our liking as it is dull, impractical and old fashioned - there is little inside or out that we like, but it is worth you using this as a starting reference.
To ensure you have planned a house that works for our family I expect that you will want to speak to key family members (and remember to speak to my mother in law...she has some important views), however please don’t bother me or my wife with the details as we are simply too busy. I’m sure that as experts you will know what we need and make the right decisions. My wife and I will obviously check on the building progress towards the end of the build and let you know if any design modifications need to be made when we see it in the flesh.
Please consider the following structural requirements - 4 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, a living room, a dining room (which can cater to banquets), 1 bathroom and one ensuite, a home office (as we might start a business with 12 people), a gym, a library, a cellar and a home cinema. My wife loves the idea of a swimming pool and my son is interested a tennis court. Can you please make sure the house can be extended in the future as we might need more bedrooms - oh and we have also talked about opening a shop....it would be great if we could add this on at a later stage
We already have all the furnishings and decorations (from our old home) and we are sure you can use your interior design skill to re-use this in the new house giving us an inspirational new lifestyle.
Our budget is limited, and we really need you to focus on keeping costs down, so please don’t worry about making this too fancy - our needs really are quite simple.
So that we can choose the best firm for this exciting project, we will expect you to prepare some initial plans and to design and build the front elevation of the house to show us that you understand our family's needs. This will show us that you really understand us and that you can design something that will really impress our neighbours…you understand that we need to know that you are the best firm for this project.
Don’t worry about these being the real design, as if you win this project, you will get a chance to plan and build this properly.
We look forward to your response to tender by our deadline which is the day after tomorrow.
Whilst this scenario sounds perfectly absurd if you were an architect of builder, when translated into a typical website brief, it may well be all too familiar to many web agencies.
Whilst I could just be having a moan, this really is not the case....So what is my point?
- The first point is that tender stage designs should not be a part of our industry, as it does not reflect what we do and the process we go through to get to a design....you would not expect your architect/builder to build you something, so why expect this of a web design agency?
- Making time to really understand the organisation’s needs is essential to getting a project right....this is a large part of the project. A great project is the combination of both parties knowledge.
- The decision makers must be central to the project....they can not just be wheeled in at the end, as they will only be pushed into a position of reversing decisions already made.
- Expectations are high with requests such as "similar to Amazon, but combining some of the functionality of E-Bay, and YouTube, but make to look nice. Social functionality like Facebook must also be baked into the core of the solution." and we therefore need to help clients understand what they might be taking for granted.
Ultimately I think that I am saying that being a web designer is challenging....experience and talent are only the entry ticket...then you need ninja skills for guiding and educating the client through the process, and some healthy boundaries. A sense humour also helps.
Note - This metaphor has been borrowed from someone else's analogy many many years ago....their version was probably better, but a recent brief brought this back to mind...so I thought I would write my own version.
Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.