Community Minded | February 23, 2004
Brighton is a good place to be if you’re a web designer. We have a fairly active local community, due in a large part to our local mailing list, the BNM. We also have an organisation called Wired Sussex whose aim is to support and promote the local New Media cluster. Last week Wired Sussex asked me to a meeting to discuss how they could improve their relations with the local freelancer/micro business community.
In the past, they have been seen as being more interested in high profile web companies, than in small web companies and freelancers. This is probably due in part to the fact that their events tend to focus on networking, and their offerings are very business oriented. They are also seen as being part of the establishment and closely tied with local government.
To get round this image, I felt they needed to update their brand. To move away from the business oriented, local government image that they had been saddled with. Part of this suggestion involved updating their website.
Their current website is actually very good. It’s semantically structured, laid out using CSS and highly accessible. However, design-wise I though the site looked like a good government site, rather than a site promoting cutting edge new media. This is not to say that the site isn’t designed well. Just that it reflects how they currently perceive themselves (and how they are currently perceived) rather than how they want too be perceived.
Asked on my local mailing list how the meeting went, the site design was one of the many things I mentioned we’d talked about. I’d previously asked for input, but as I got very little back, most of the stuff I talked with them about were personal impressions. However most people disagreed with my feeling that their current site looked a little institutional and didn’t reflect current trends in design.
I’d just finished a big dev project at work, so over the weekend decided to do something cathartic. Partly to illustrate my thoughts, and partly as a bit of fun, I decided to produce my own version of the Wired Sussex site. A version that I felt reflected where they wanted to be, rather than where they were coming from.
This morning I posted my design to the BNM list to see what people thought. I’d thought there would be a mixture of opinion, but I wasn’t prepared for the tirade of insults and negative comments that followed.
Here is a selection of some of the more colourful comments.
“AB’s arrogance is incredible. If he did that with one of my sites, I’d be slightly less diplomatic and smack him in the gob.”
“You clearly have way too much time on your hands.”
“I’d be delighted to hear any more constructive comments about the site, rather than a fairly immature ‘I could do that better’ response, which is at best unhelpful, and at worst fairly insulting.”
“a) He didn’t do anything worth blowing his own trumpet about.
b) What he did was pretty rubbish anyway.
c) It’s a sad way to celebrate finishing a major project.”
“… he didn’t redesign the whole thing, he just futzed around with the style and came up with something that was markedly inferior and said ‘look at me, aren’t I good’. This is a poor way of doing business.”
“I do think it is a little egotistical to spend the weekend redesigning other peoples sites.”
So I’m interested in what other people think. Is my design “pretty rubbish” and “markedly inferior” to the original? Is it an “egotistical” way to spend a weekend and a “sad way to celebrate finishing a major project”? Do I really deserve a “smack in the gob” for creating my Wired Sussex theme? I’d really like to know, because at the moment I’m feeling pretty dejected and very negative towards the local web design community :-(
Posted at February 23, 2004 11:46 PM