Dealing with fragmented data sources – a constant challenge for web designers

datasourcesOnce a website is completed its practically a complete picture of the client’s business. Its a time capsule type snapshot of the company, its values, its products or services and all other related information. But getting together this information is a task in itself. Web designers are increasingly being paid for their data collation skills more than their technology and design skills. In a way we are becoming expert content management people.

Lack of content availability or fragmented data sources is the leading cause of website project delays.

Over the last ten years or so, professional web designers have become very efficient at delivering projects. Our processes and teams are in place to rapidly deliver from start to finish. But what puts the brakes on the process is data or rather lack of it.

Finalizing the site map is only the starting point.

One of the first steps we take in web design is working with the client to finalize the site map. However in many cases this is only the starting point. Getting together the material as per the site map is an entirely different challenge. Although the site map gives us the road map for content collation, in  practise it turns out more like a massive scavenger hunt to find the nuggets of information required for the site.

What you don’t have, you need to create – and therein lies another challenge.

Most of the material required is easily found within the client’s organization but many times a lot of it has to be written from scratch. It then becomes a challenge when the client promises to create and deliver it themselves. Due to pressure on time and other business related issues the clients find it very difficult to focus and get it done. Any intervention from our end is not welcome since the client sees it as a personal responsibility and wants control of the final output. So all we can do is wait and remind and then remind again.

Scattered stakeholders across geographical locations makes it very difficult.

Working for larger organizations means that the stakeholders are scattered both physically as well as departmentally. Many times red tape can cause inordinate delays in getting the most simple of information. Web designers literally have to become roaming agents with the client’s company and work across boundaries to get the information they require.

Web designers have learnt to ask, cajole, threaten and even beg to get the content together.

Web designers have become experts collection agents, but instead of collecting money (which we also have to do), we collect information and content from the organization’s stakeholders. ¬†Using tactics like cajoling, threatening and begging helps gets results but does nothing for the self esteem of the web developers who are treated like intruders in many departments of the client company.

So the next time you are negotiating fees with a web designer or you are a web designer negotiating with a client, do keep in mind the extra effort that goes into data collection and saint like patience needed from the web designer.

Cheers,
Ron

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