Out of the closet: An ode to lean CS

The other morning I was standing in front of the closet I share with my wife when I had an epiphany. The closet was a disaster. It was taking me forever to get dressed. I couldn’t find what I was looking for. The lighting was bad. I couldn’t access the shirts I wanted. My suit jackets were all scrunched up.  Everything was a jumble. And I won’t even mention the turf wars I was having with my closet-mate.

So I called a closet designer. I told her what my problems were. I told her what I wanted to able to do once the redesign was done. Finally, I gave her a deadline.

Before starting, she said, she would need to interview the members of my household. She wanted to see stats on usage patterns. She mentioned filming me and wife using it. She would then inventory the contents of the closet and tell me what should stay and what should go. She would also tell me what clothes I needed to buy and when I could wear them over the next 18 months.

“Look,” I said, “I want a new closet design. I’m hiring you because you’re an expert. You’ve done hundreds of closets, so you ought to know what works and what doesn’t. Do we really have to waste all this time with inventorying and interviewing?” She insisted that she did; I didn’t hire her.

This isn’t a true story, but it could be. Some recent web projects have made me think about what clients want from a site redesign and what service I’m trying to provide.

My conclusion?

I don’t think many customers are ready yet for the holistic, collaborative approach to solving their content problems. They may never be. Most of them don’t even frame their problem in terms of content to begin with. Their website is broken or ugly (or both) and they’re hiring experts to fix it. EOS.

They expect these experts to come back to them with solutions and recommendations based on experience and best practices. They expect to be asked to choose – not to participate. Otherwise they would have done it themselves. In fact, too much participation (sneakily masquerading as sign off) can irritate them. The other day, for example, one of my clients threw up his arms after seeing a 3rd round of wireframes and said: “that’s it. I can’t decide until I see some real designs.”

Now, we can decry the short-term thinking and we can moan about blinker vision, but the fact of the matter is that although we may live and breathe content strategy, our clients don’t.

We nod our collective heads in agreement about at the ones that wear their underpants on the outside, but we don’t see the irony of asking clients to help cook the meal they’re paying for.

So I say “YES” to any and all initiatives to share best practices, case studies and design patterns among content strategy practitioners. These resources are sorely needed.

And above all, I think 2011 needs to be the year of lean content strategy.


2 comments on “Out of the closet: An ode to lean CS

  1. Grant Probate
    February 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    The analogy of making a client cook a meal for which he is paying made me smile. The reason the client spoke to a professional in the first place was to do stuff he could not have managed by himself. Bravo.


  1. Tweets that mention Out of the closet: An ode to lean CS | RICHTEXT -- Topsy.com - February 11, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Thompson, Helen Keevy. Helen Keevy said: RT @richtextfr: Out of the closet: An ode to lean CS http://goo.gl/fb/yn6o1 […]

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