Lessons from the Web: Finding Familiar Ground in Home Improvement
We’ve all heard the old cliché “Write what you know.” I decided to take a different approach with this article, and address something I very recently learned and tie it into something I know well. As it turns out, remodeling a kitchen isn’t so different from building a new website.
We’ve all heard the old cliché “Write what you know.” I decided to take a different approach with this article, and address something I very recently learned and tie it into something I know well. As it turns out, remodeling a kitchen isn’t so different from building a new website. Not long ago my husband and I decided to do a complete kitchen overhaul in preparation for putting our condo on the market. Out with the old tiling, the outdated cabinets, the stained countertops. It was time to make serious updates. Looking back, I see that I was actually in my element in this new experience. Let me demonstrate….
- The basics: Remodeling a kitchen can take several weeks and can be a lot of work, but in the end should add significant value. …Which generally translates into monetary value. Ditto the website.
- According to those in the know, a good kitchen design should not compromise the all-important work triangle between your sink, your stove, and your fridge. Similarly, flashy bells and whistles don’t belong on a website if they’ll render it uncrawlable by the search engines. Like a great website, a great kitchen is both beautiful and functional.
- Much thought went into planning our new kitchen: What would make it really useful, even more so than the old kitchen? How would we schedule the work to make sure the pieces were completed in the right order? This forethought undoubtedly helped to keep stress minimal and ensured that our result was the kitchen we had envisioned.The lesson may be obvious, but I’ve seen it proven over and over again during my 14 years in the web industry: The best results are achieved when there is a clear plan of action.
- Even with a solid plan in place, certain decision points inevitably come up as a project progresses. With the kitchen, we knew we needed to keep expenses to a minimum. We were also facing a time constraint, since we wanted to get our home on the market with plenty of lead time before the real estate tax credit expired. Some ‘extra mile’ details we would have loved to do, we ultimately decided against.
Andy Vota recently sketched for me a simple diagram of a principle that sums this up well for website clients, and very much applies to home improvement: Any change to the Budget, Time, or Scope of a project can impact (positively or negatively) each of the other two factors. For us, keeping within our desired time and budget constraints meant limiting the scope just to what was necessary for our kitchen to look amazing (as opposed to magazine-cover spectacular!).
- My biggest contribution to the kitchen project was organization. I separated out our wants from our needs, and both of these from our excesses—not only in terms of design planning, but in actually going through pots and pans, appliances, food that had been in the pantry for ages and needed to be tossed…We often charge our new website clients with the same task: Go through your current website with a critical eye. Grab the content that you like and that you need, and identify the material you should probably get rid of. It can be replaced with fresh material later.
- My husband, ever the do-it-yourselfer, identified some pieces of the project he wanted to take on himself; for the rest, we enlisted the help of contractors. After all, it was a big project and an important one: We were counting on this new kitchen adding value to our home.All in all, we found a good balance in our level of involvement: contributing where we knew our vision and guidance were needed to make sure we achieved our desired end result, and stepping back when we knew things were best left to the experts. Renovations, like website design, are a collaborative effort and benefit from a good flow of communication.
The outcome of our project was a beautiful kitchen that we are extremely satisfied with and will have a hard time leaving behind. Despite requiring some careful thought and labor on our part, the process was relatively stress-free and, dare I say, fun. It will require a certain amount of upkeep on our part while our home is on the market, to make sure the kitchen’s value translates into a conversion. …And there’s a lesson for website owners there, too.