The Design Portfolio of Andrew Brynjulson

Writing

A collection of design musings, work and work in progress.

Nothingness and Cats: A Web Without Content

 

For fun, I removed the photos, video and copy from some of my recent website designs.

 
Ci Shirts Home Page
ABC Home Page
Golden West Home Page
 

Oof. Maybe not so fun.

Maybe the bumper stickers were right: Content is king.

It's not that I didn't always believe in the power of content. I always accepted it as standard doctrine. After all, I've spent years designing websites in the agency world. Designing icons for websites. Art directing photoshoots for websites. Directing videos for websites. Writing copy for websites. I knew the value. I could tell the difference between good and bad content.

But until recently, I'd never truly felt it. I've come to really appreciate how dependent my websites are on the content inside them.

Without content, there's nothingness...and cats. There will always be cats.


HOW I LEARNED MY LESSON

Web Concentrate Homepage

About a year ago, I left the traditional agency world to become a partner at Web Concentrate. Admittedly, it's not an agency, but rather a partner to agencies and other businesses. WC is a small team of digital brains that specializes in a single piece of the marketing mix. No ad campaigns, photoshoots, commercials, billboards etc. Just websites.

But, I missed that variety in the agency world. Touching every piece of the project was the norm. Specialization was an entirely new posture for me to get used to.

As I began to get my bearings in the new company I started to notice some things:

  1. I actually had more control over design.
  2. But I wasn't involved in the content.
  3. My websites sucked.

Huzzah!

Wait...that's bad. Why did my websites suck?

After all these years was my mother wrong about how great I am at everything?

The hard truth was that my websites sucked because the second the they left my hands, I no longer had any sort of quality control. The marketing directer, or agency contact, or intern or someone's nephew were left to their own devices. We prided ourselves on delivering flexible sites that offered clients plenty of control, but that actually ended up biting us in the butt. All of a sudden every typo, blurry photo and cell phone video became part of our websites because we left content up to them. Something had to change.


TAKING BACK CONTROL

Our mindset needed to change, for one. Web Concentrate's business model was such that we were essentially experts at building a box. Then, someone other than us was filling that box with content.

We assumed we were building jewelry boxes to fill with precious things, then found out they were being filled with loose change, misfit buttons and a stale pack of gum.

So we decided to take a more vested interest in the content on our websites. We almost immediately made some changes to our process:

  1. We coordinated more with the client up front to inventory existing assets and needs.
  2. We expanded our proposals to include a la carte photography, video and copywriting budgets that I could oversee.
  3. We offered extra direction and training for our clients when handing over a site.

The result was improved processes, increased budgets and most of all better websites. All good things.

In the end, the only loser was the ego of Andrew Brynjulson, circa 2007, who thought his designs were all it took to make a great website experience.
 


~Andrew Brynjulson is a Sioux Falls-based freelance designer and art director specializing in logo, web and brand design. He often writes about art, design, marketing and business. Share your thoughts, @BrenniFresh.