There is a saying that a camel is simply a horse designed by a committee. I often think of that saying as we begin a web project for an association where the design project is being run by a committee.
I warn the client that gathering input from multiple sources will generate great ideas, but it can also force compromises which result in something with lots of interesting features, but a lack of cohesion in the overall look and feel. This is especially challenging when we work with associations with volunteer boards.
So how do we help our clients so they don’t end up with a camel instead of a horse?
- Start with education. Particularly with volunteer boards where we are dealing with passionate, talented people who may never have worked on a project like this before, education is key. A kickoff meeting gives us a chance to get everyone on the same page about how the project will work and what their role will be throughout.
- A firm project schedule which includes milestone dates for when feedback and input will be required. While schedules are important for every web project, it is even more so with committees since it takes them longer to get agreement on the feedback they will send us.
- Clear project guidelines. This prevents scope creep once the design process has started. More than anything else we do, this helps prevent the horse from becoming a camel.
- Encourage them to select a spokesperson who will collect all of their information and be our main point of contact. This forces them to discuss the project before they meet with us. It helps us stay out of the role of mediator.
- Use technology. Weekly conference calls are scheduled using GotoMeeting so we can be sure everyone is looking at the same part of the website as we chat.
The end result is the launch of a website all of us are proud of. That was the process we used as we worked with the Indianapolis chapter of HRPDA. Their objective was to transition from a static site developed by their parent organization to one which would allow the local chapter to stand on their own. By following these guidelines, we were able to create a horse, not a camel.