There were some oversights during the Spring 2008 LAWR Newsletter release, mostly from communication issues. This will help mitigate those issues for the next project.
Problems and Solutions
Problem: The ticket system wasn't used reliably, leaving certain people out of the loop on particular emails (even the designer!).
Solution: If you're using the email@example.com ticket system, use it for everything.
This way, all changes are documented, easily referred to by the
designer, and everyone is copied on all correspondence. It also allows
easy filtering of those emails to local email folders for people
without direct access to the web-based ticket interface. Clients should do this.
Alternate Solution: Create a project site in SmartSite (assuming all contributors are UC Davis affiliates with UCD Logins). Allows messaging, calendaring, chatting, upload of files, some degree of file versioning.
Organization of Request and Replies
Problem: Ideas were submitted for addition, deletion, or change, but came in from various people in a slightly disorderly fashion. Effecting those ideas and communicating the changes back to the requestors became disorganized as well.
Solution: Exchange ideas in the form of numbered line items. The numbers don't need to reflect priority. The numbers are used as identification for the various ideas presented. Replies from the designer should incorporate those numbers in a line item format as well. For example
- Change the font for graphic descriptions to 9 pt Arial.
- Use the attached picture of the department Chair for the introduction
- Change made to fonts.
- Picture didn't come through in the attachment. No change made.
Alternate Soution: Have a single point of communication, such as an editor, for the project. Ideas are submitted to the editor. Editor organizes ideas and presents them to the designer. Designer comments on ideas and makes changes, presenting results to editor.
Priorities: Client vs Designer
Problem: Clients don't see all the designer must do to accomplish the task (clients aren't involved and have little experience in the behind-the-scenes of design). Designers don't see the entire scale of the project or the nuances of the clients' ideas (designers aren't mind-readers). The client may want to see the layout first, as was the case with the Newsletter, but the designer was having design-block and was working on other parts of the process until inspiration was found.
Solution: The client's priorities are important, as they generally have set them for a reason. The end product is, of course, what matters, but the ride is smoother if all sides are turning the steering wheel in the same direction. It is simply COMMUNICATION which will solve this problem. Got design block? Rather than let the clients feel you aren't listening to them, tell them your problem and that you'll get the layout to them ASAP. Also let them know that the layout isn't a prerequisite for the project to continue -- while people are visual and would like to see the pretty pictures, confirm with them that the project is moving forward and the layout will come.
Problem: Throughout the design process it is helpful to be looking over the design with the designer next to you, pointing out changes, discussing content addition locations, etc. With Guillermo in Los Angeles, this was difficult -- doing everything over email was challenging at best.
Solution: Schedule a time where you can look at the latest changes in the document or website together and talk over the phone. If there are multiple clients, use a projector (or huddle around a laptop) and speaker phone.
Solution: Share the desktop over the Internet using Adobe Connect, Webex, etc. We have accounts for Connect and it is simple to use. Sharing the desktop allows changes to be made in real-time (while the clients watch). Coupled with a speaker phone or Skype, this would be perfect.
Solution: Centralize communications with SmartSite so everyone can check what's going on at any time, rather than searching through emails. If you ARE searching through emails, use your email client filter to place the ticket emails into a separate folder so everything isn't just sitting in your inbox out of order.
Get the IT Manager Involved
Problem: There were issues with one of the IT employees on a project. (Alternatively, an IT Employee is having difficulties with a client.)
Solution: Get the IT Manager involved ASAP. This is one of the main reasons LAWR has an IT Manager. Chris is very good at all things technical of course, but he's also very good at communicating (and spelling -- typos aside).
If there is anywhere else the reader can go for more information on this topic, include some links or pointers here.