Each time The Future of Web Design show rolls into London, we look to convey new messages and ways of thinking to our crowd of web professionals - ideas that will get them to work and design in different, more progressive ways to make life better for their team, for their client, and for the end-user. So when Headscape's UX Consultant extraordinaire, and Boagworld author Paul Boag came to us with an idea for a brand new session, centered around web governance, we paid attention.
Cat Clark: Hi Paul, thanks so much for taking the time to answer a couple of questions about your upcoming FOWD London appearence - always a pleasure to have you joining us on stage. To kick things off, could you tell us how the idea behind your session came about? What makes you feel so strongly about it, and what made you decide it was time to take the message to the masses?
Paul Boag: Frustration to be honest. At Headscape, we became fed up designing user interfaces that took months to be implemented or write strategies that were rarely put into practice. We had had enough building sites that were sometimes left to fester and die.
It became apparent to us that many organisations we worked with, were simply not equipped to run a successful website. We would do our part, but they were unable to follow through.
Eventually we decided to do something about this. We started offering clients help to make the fundamental change they needed to run their digital strategy. We started offering to help them recruit staff, establish policies and organise responsibilities. We helped them put together a programme of ongoing monitoring and envision a long term roadmap. Essentially we got stuck into running the website.
The response has been phenomenal. We now find ourselves doing almost us much of this type of work as we do actually building sites. Clients are as sick as we are of their sites failing to live up to its potential and they want to change. Its not always easy making that happen, but there is a desire.
That is my reason for talking about this subject now. For the first time the majority of clients are beginning to get that they cannot just throw a site online and sit back. They recognise a need for ongoing management of their sites but are in desperate need of help to make that a reality.
If we don't help them, then who will?
CC: In your session outline, you mention that those in an outside position - for example, contractors working with clients or those who are lower down the company heirachy - might feel powerless to instigate change. What would you say to those feeling this way, to encourage them to take the first steps needed?
PB: There is a Catch 22 in many organisations. Those responsible for the website often understand the problems but don't have the power to fix them, while those with the power lack the understanding.
It falls to those of us who do have the understanding to demonstrate the issues and then outline clearly how the problem can be solved in terms that senior management understand.
We cannot simply sit by and wait for direction to be handed down from on high. It will never happen. We have to take action ourselves. This involves doing what we can without even approaching management, but also educating them where we need their support.
It has to be said that an outside consultant makes a huge difference too. Senior management will often listen to an outside 'expert' more than their in-house staff. It's not right, but it is the way of the world unfortunately.
CC: We're pretty chuffed that you're choosing to debut this brand new talk at FOWD London. What is it about our crowd that keeps you coming back? (If The Brewery's infamous trifle pots play a part in the decision as well, we'd understand.)
PB: Obviously the reason I love FOWD so much is the wonderful organisers ;-)
I joke but there is some degree of truth in that. The culture and personalities of the people behind a conference really shines through and sets the tone for everything else. I think the team behind FOWD really shape the event. Your choice of speakers, location and your attention to detail makes FOWD a delight.
This also affects who attends. I always find the FOWD crowd very well-educated, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. That is exactly the kind of audience you want to speak in front of.
CC: Finally, as a FOWD stalwart, what's been your favourite memory of the show?
PB: If I am honest, it was hosting FOWD 2010. I had so much fun and things went downhill very quickly when I discovered the props out the back from a play they were doing at the venue…