The Supernatural Analogy
If your'e a web designer working with a project team and they want you to author their content from scratch, I have the perfect analogy for you: the Supernatural analogy.
If you're unaware, Supernatural wraps their final episode today. I've been thinking of the show a lot this week, and not because it's ending. I've become more and more frustrated working with teams who don't understand what my team does. I needed an analogy everyone could understand. Everyone watches television, right? Well, I watch very little television, as I'm about to disclose painfully to you in the next few minutes. Bear with me.
Supernatural is a television show on the CW. As Jensen says in the video clip linked above, they've filmed a total of 327 episodes - we're on the fifteenth and final season. A brief rundown of the show: Two brothers solve crimes. Except...they're hunters, and the crimes are supernatural in nature, hence the title of the show. For this analogy, my team isn't even on the show. We're fans. We've watched every episode. We think salt circles, silver, and iron will solve any crime. We know about design, writing/editing, and organization. Our procedures are a little iffy - it's been a long time since any of us spent any time as a front-line associate, and never for the client paying us to build their website. If we're called in to write processes, they might look a little like Chuck's prophecy blog.
The project team for our client is like production on the television show CSI. We work with many different teams over time. Some are Vegas and know their shit. Some are New York, a dark place filled with terrors. Some are free-balling like Miami. Each type has their own particular blind spots. Which type are we talking about this time? Honestly, it doesn't matter. They're all forensic procedurals. Some of the project team members may have been forensic specialists back in the day, but now they're writing for television. One of the biggest complaints I've heard about CSI is that it's never that easy - processes take longer than they show on television. Nobody wants to watch a tech dust for prints for five hours. They need to finish their project in a 42-minute window and wrap it up neatly. Real forensics specialists know it never works like that. Worse, they're asking Supernatural fans to do it for them because they have an impossible deadline set by someone in Chuck's pay-band.
This particular project team wants to cut corners. If the Supernatural fans don't have time to write their content (like time was all we needed - we're Supernatural fans!), they want to hire temps to write their processes so we can publish them on the web in their allotted time frame. That's like calling in fans of Two Broke Girls (or literally, two broke girls). Fans of a sitcom won't know how to write a forensic procedural. It's a completely different skill-set. They're going to write twenty minutes of content for a forty-two minute show. It's going to be funny, but maybe not the way you want (think CSI: Miami).
The people who do the job are the ones we need writing the web content. They're the ones who know the process from beginning to end, not just what you see on television. They knows what goes together. When my team groups salt, silver, and iron together (they're weapons!), they're the ones who will recognize right away their new website is shit and either request a ton of updates to make it right (bad for my team), or turn their back on the website and print off their old documents before they disappear off the servers forever (bad for their team and their customers). Either way, our new relationship is filled with distrust and piss-poor content.
The moral of the story: The project teams responsible for new web content should hire the front-line experts to write their content, and leave design/editing to the Supernatural fans (designers). And, since we want Two Broke Girls to have jobs in this economy, maybe they can take some tasks off the experts' plates to give them more time to write content. Win-win-win-win.