My Experience Working as a Sub-Contractor

Hey there folks! It’s that time again, the holiday season is here and the cold weather brings more work, as usual!

What I’d like to do is talk about a project that I’m currently working on and specifically highlight some of the things that I’ve found really speed up the development process. I pride myself in being a highly intellectual and well-informed designer, and to that end I’d like to offer my advice based on my years of experience…

My Experience Working as a Sub-Contractor

While this kind of environment ultimately should lead to more creative freedom in your work product, the client still ultimately has the say over what they will and will not pay for.

Recently I began working on a project for an educational research organization that specialized in K-12 learning metrics. For all intents and purposes the project began as blue-sky. Those who are familiar with this gut-churning term, know the horrors that can come with it. Those who are not familiar with it, should learn it quickly: this kind of project has no basis, no starting point to work from and all decisions are made upon speculative hear-say. Usually in these instances, the work is never to the client’s liking and ends up in several lost hours and little progress in terms of research.

My advice in these situations is work with your project manager / contractor and really look at all the angles. Make sure that if at all possible, have the client specify similar websites which they like and dislike, specifically pointing out the features they do and don’t like. This will at least give you a forest of options, and a direction in that forest to start walking in.

My most recent project involved tons and tons of blue sky and an initial web design concept that no-one liked, myself included. But given the lack of information, the immediate time constraints, and lack of research on similar institutions for market trends, my initial design fell flat on its face, bit the curb and had a figurative Ed Norton curb stomping the teeth out of it.

Needless to say, things became heated as the deadline loomed, and it turned out that there WAS in fact information and market research done with the client that simply was not passed on to me… I was a little upset when I found this out as I feel that I could have nailed the design the first time around given all this missing information.

So, myself, better equipped and better informed, set to work again on a second completely different design. Personally I still like the quasi-artistic appeal that the first concept holds, but I do enjoy the cold-logic and usability behind the 2nd design I ended up creating.

This morning, as I’m writing this, I see an email from my project manager stating that the client absolutely LOVED the 2nd design, and requested absolutely NO edits. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more vindicated in my life!

How long did the 2nd design take to create, you ask?

Thirty minutes. That’s right: Three-Zero, Thirty, 30. That information was so crucial to the way I work it completely provided a solid base for me to work on and allowed me to take the experience I’ve gained working on projects like these over the years and apply it intelligently and strategically. Ultimately saving the client 18 hours in a 24 hour budget so far. Now more hours will be spent working on the actual HTML and CSS and accessibly stress testing, but having a design phase so quick and trim is essential for preventing lost cost in the end.

I guess the moral of my story to all designers and project managers who might end up reading this, is to make sure that all the information is on the table from the start. Make sure any new information quickly finds its way to the table and is pointed out when it finds its way there. I’m not sure, but this may also be pretty useful to the end-product user, or as we in the industry like to “lovingly” refer to these people as “clients”, is to make sure you provide as much information as possible to the people handling your project. This simple step can save heaps of time (ultimately money) and frustration on your designers part.

See full post here: Matthew Lee Keith2011-12-13.