Web design: the chicken or the egg?

A client of mine is in the process of re-evaluating all the content for their web site. This, of course, is after we had produced a conceptual web site with all their content, including a home page based on the contents of their web site.

Due to the changes, we’re re-evaluating some design decisions in the base page template (headers, navigation, etc.). This is causing some design changes which clash a bit with the current home page.

The client asked if we should focus on the home page first, bringing up the famous chicken and egg analogy:

but it’s like a chicken or egg question — do we address this now or later? before or after content changes arrive?

Good question. The answer I gave is this:

Generally, I usually focus on the home page last because it’s the most unique and you can do a lot with it, unlike the other 99% of pages. I’d like to focus more on the general look and feel … and [later] revisit the home page.

Of course, I felt it necessary to address the chicken and egg question.

If the home page is the chicken, all the other pages are eggs. All the eggs come from the same chicken – but you don’t know if the chicken they come from is the home page chicken. So, let the eggs develop, then you can see if the home page chicken is their mother. If it isn’t, you find a new chicken. Or something like that.

Not sure if that’s clear to anyone, but it seemed interesting enough to share on a Friday morning.

2 thoughts on “Web design: the chicken or the egg?”

  • B –

    Within the last six months, I’ve literally been through the school of hard knocks for the course of “Engaging Clients Who Don’t Know Their Own Content”. We’ve been setting up their Content Management Systems with Tridion (one of the more popular, yet more useless CMA’s as compared to a homegrown one currently used by the Greater New York Hospital Association).

    My rule of thumb lately is get an inventory and an assessment of the client’s content readiness, then see how you can design around the content. For example, if you find that the client has a lot of article based content you may wish to design for simplicity. However, should the user be more “widget based” in what we are now calling Web 2.0 – a different solution may need to be presented.

    This is usually when you get usability gurus or information architects involved and its when you should start thinking of wireframes. You can do all of this without having to come up with comps or colors or pictures . It will give the client a clear picture on how the site will work and then you can start making the pretty pictures..

    It’s like all things in nature. Start with the conception, then the skeleton, then build the muscles. After all that is done, you can think of hair and eye color (Sorry, been playing Sims too long).

    My personal belief with all web designs (including this one) is that simplicity is the best practice. The more tools and resources you put on a page, it will cost you in usability and in download time. The two best signs are Yahoo! and Google. A user can navigate successfully with little thought and get to where they want to go..

    – C

  • Good advice, Chris, especially the “content readiness” approach. After all these years, I’m still amazed how some clients wonder why they have to provide content for their web site, or why knowing what that content is up-front matters.

    /sigh

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