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The Dark Ages of Website Planning: Site Maps and Wireframes

Many agencies try to communicate with their clients about what kind of website they are planning to build using absolutely any means possible other than the web. They make site maps and wireframes using sticky notes, PDFs, spreadsheets, power point presentations, binders full of paper–you name it. Their flaw is that they are trying to describe a product that would exist in the nonlinear web medium with the inherently linear paper medium. When the mediums are at odds, miscommunication is guaranteed. What can be so frustrating about this process is that despite trying their best to communicate with their clients, they know that miscommunication was taking place–they just aren’t sure where. These types of projects are marked by a tense buildup to the time the site is basically complete, at which point the client can finally interact with the site using a mouse, screen, and keyboard for the first time. It isn’t until that moment that the agency knows for sure if they were successful or not. This is a very anxious and precarious way to run a web project. Web projects take about 3-5 months to complete. That is a long time to live in this kind of fear, and in this scenario, the agency isn’t the only one who’s been afraid for the past five months. 

Paper Food
You can’t eat paper food, and you can’t explain the web with print.

Almost all of your prospective clients have been through at least one or two web development projects, and chances are very good that those projects did not go well. Why should they believe their experience with you will be any different? Your client can sense if you’re not genuinely confident about what you’re doing. If you don’t have faith in your process, neither will they. From the moment they sense your fear every conversation you have with them will be a battle. 

This dynamic plagues the majority of web projects, and it is the main reason they fail. Your power in the client relationship relies completely upon your confidence in your ability to get the job done right the first time, and that won’t happen unless you are effectively communicating with your client. If your communication isn’t perfect–especially at this crucial information architecture planning stage–the web project will fail. 

*The image in this article was found on http://www.collectorsquest.com/blog/2008/03/27/thursday-thirteen-fragile-retro-kitsch-craft-items/

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