Project Management

Websites are like haircuts

No, we haven’t brought Pimms Friday forward this week, or been working so hard that we’ve lost all sense of reality. It is just an analogy that came to us earlier today on the tube, in transit between meeting and office.

It’s all about the anticipation: the idea of the magic bullet, the ultimate fresh start, the miracle cure. We’ve a newfound empathy with those salon stylists who, daily presented with torn out magazine photos of Scarlett Johansson, Jessie J or Harry Styles, calmly meet the slightly frantic eye of their client, nod and say, “Well, we’ll do what we can...” The expectation emanating from those people sitting awkwardly in their itchy nylon gowns must be terrifying, waiting as they are the application of fairy dust that is going to change their lives forever.

There is definitely an element of that same pressure on web designers and developers. All businesses and organisations these days are aware that they need a solid, effective web presence. They know that the difference between having that online profile and not having it can be the difference between success and failure. They come to the door of poor beleaguered web experts with their hopes in their hands…

Which is all very well and good, but in the case of both haircuts and websites, there are limits to what is possible or, perhaps more importantly, what is desirable. 

Just as someone about to brave a new hairstyle needs to consider how it’s going to work in their everyday life, e.g. whether they’ll be able to recreate the salon look with ten minutes to spare while simultaneously making their kids’ packed lunches and spinning the washing, clients need to think carefully about whether what they think they want from a new website is actually what they need.

In the same way that any decent hair stylist will insist on an initial client consultation, to discuss lifestyle, type and condition of hair, etc, any web agency worth its salt will spend the first part of the working process becoming as familiar as possible with your organisation, the nature of your business, your short and long term goals, and with how you operate on a day-to-day basis. Your web team ought to be asking you so many questions that even you begin to look at your business differently, perhaps more strategically. 

This is what we at Webstars call the ‘immersion phase’. It’s a collaborative effort and all subsequent work - scope, design, build, etc - is based upon it. You may have your heart set on a five minute fun animation on your home page that explains in detail what you’re about. However, if during the course of the immersion period, your web team has come to realise that your chief objective is getting as many potential clients as possible to sign up for newsletters, they ought to be firmly advising you against any such gimmicks, and suggesting snappy bites of text and/or highly communicative images that will instantaneously convey exactly why the visitor to the site needs to be leaving their details.

While we would never want to completely dispel the myth of the web magician (we do have some superpowers, you know), and we accept we aren’t bounded by quite as many constraints as a hairstylist may be (frizzy or superfine hair), we would never advocate throwing fancy tricks at a website for the sake of it. 

So yes, websites are like haircuts in that it’s all about context, and each case is individual and unique.

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