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29 2011

3 things learned from my website make-over

Syndicated from: Box of Crayons

The new website is up at last. Sleek, beautiful and focused. No longer do we have 12 disconnected and disparate websites. No longer – I hope – do people ask, “but really, what do you do?” (Chris Brogan is asking himself the same question even as we speak.) It’s taken more than four months, and a few false starts. But now that the website is up (and a big thank you to Kathryn Presner of Zoonini who sweated bullets to make sure that everything was in place before September 7th’s big book launch) I’ve got a few reflections on what I’ve learned 1. Design doesn’t matter The biggest breakthrough in this redesign has been the process of truly figuring out what we offer the world. I’m endlessly seduced by bright and shiny things, so over the last nine years or so, I’ve been doing a little of this and a little of that. Even I was confused. This redesign forced us to simplify, simplify, simplify. We started with movies, 8 possible programs, keynoting, books, products we’d created, products we created with others, ebooks, products we liked from others. If we were serving food, it would be bubble and squeak. In the end, we offer four programs for organizations and four products for individuals. (If you’re not convinced about the value of less rather than more, listen to Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice, the title of his excellent book.) Here’s how Steve Jobs puts it People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things. 2. Design is all that matters One of Box of Crayons’ values is pursue elegance. That works at all sorts of levels, and one of those levels is the importance of beauty. And perhaps more than beauty, the importance of design. This is now a world where knowledge is free. Anything you want you can find via the omniscient Google. That means for people to give you any of your attention – something more precious than money in many cases – you have to add value to that data. Make it something more than it already is. Design is one of the answers. (I think relationships is another, and you should head over to Charlie Gilkey’s site - he’s going to be running a fantastic blog series throughout September on that very topic.) Whether you’re creating a book, a training session, a product, a meeting or an email, design is what elevates mundane into magic. Finding the right look and feel to our site was a difficult process. We had two or three do-overs as we searched for something that had the right degree of polish, clarity and humanity to it. In the end, I adopted Tom Peters’ old motto of “stolen with glee” so a hat-tip to Nancy Duarte‘s lovely site, which inspired the structure of ours. 3. Set a deadline As you’re quite possibly picking up, I’ve got a new book coming out on September 7th. I can’t say much about it (although you can sign up for the “A-List” here which means you’ll find out about it early, not to mention the exclusive bonus I’m offering), but I’ve been working hard with Seth Godin and his team at The Domino Project to get it out in the world. One thing I’ve learned from working with Seth is he’s not shy about laying down semi-impossible deadlines and saying, “run like hell to hit that.” The secret seems to lie in the “semi” part. Some of the deadlines I made, some of which I didn’t. But it means that we’ve created this book in a blur, and we’re already for the big launch day on Wednesday next week. In a same way, having the deadline of End of August for the website helped all of us accelerate into getting the beast done in time. (Did I mention how grateful I am to have Kathryn Presner on our team?) So what’s useful here for you? Where are you wanting focus, design and completion in your working life? PS – by the way, Gwen Bell – one of my few “Must Read” people on the web – is running this program: Align Your Website. Even though I’ve just launched a website I love, I’ve signed up – I’ve no doubt I’m going to learn a great deal about focus, making the most of the site, and writing well. Feel free to join me. Follow me on Twitter here

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