Utilising the experts

Helping hand
One of the hardest professional skills to master is understanding your own limitations. Once you’ve got to grips with that, you then need to call upon the right people for help. Our recent redesign of the Onlignment website and brand is a case in point.
Here is an insight into the problem we faced. The four of us all shared brief lists of websites that we admire. Below you can see four websites we cited, one from each of us. I’m not going to tell you who chose which but you’re welcome to guess.
http://www.mixd.co.uk/
http://coolblueweb.com/
http://endjin.com/
http://www.valuablecontent.co.uk/
What do these websites have in common? Not a great deal.
Was this a problem? Not really.
Why not? Because we knew that we would be wasting our time if we spent valuable days and weeks arguing over whose entirely subjective opinion was best. Instead we enlisted the help of a graphic designer and asked him to help us find a solution that worked for us all.
It’s nice to think that you can do it all yourself but sometimes it’s in your own interests, or the interests of a client, to understand where bringing in outside expertise can make a difference. The opinion and talents of someone for whom you have professional respect can obviously massively improve your end product, but it can also result in a much smoother and more enjoyable creative process for you or your client.
In the end, Gary, the graphic designer, listened to our thoughts on what the company meant to us, and what we wanted it to mean to other people. He considered our various visual preferences, provided us with four options to choose from and a design was born. (Relatively painless) magic. We built the website in-house, as this was well within our wheelhouse of expertise and here you are, enjoying it.
I think the size of our company also affected our approach. If I were operating as a one-woman band I would have had three options –

  1. Use an off-the-shelf website design
  2. Build something myself from scratch or
  3. Ask someone else to build it for me.

Time, talent and resource constraints would most likely have led me to use an off-the-shelf solution.
If I were in charge of commissioning a new website for a large company or organisation, my options might have been different. I would most likely have discounted the build-it-myself and off-the-shelf options and would have either brought in external help or gone to an in-house team with the relevant skills and remit.
Most small businesses are unlikely to have sufficient resources to create a media/brand/web team so how would you ensure the best outcomes for your projects? Thinking about my own experiences, these are the answers I would give:

  • Recognise when to utilise the experts
  • Build a network of trusted suppliers whose skills complement your work and needs
  • Make those experts part of your team by taking the time to keep in touch with them between projects