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Monday, Jun. 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm

“If Architects Had to Work Like Web Designers”

By Holly Buchanan
June 25th, 2007

winchesterhouse.jpgOK, here’s a stupid question: Would you build a house without an architectural blueprint?

Would you just put up some walls, and add in rooms here and there, and not really pay any attention to silly things like, for instance, doors, so you at least have the option to travel between rooms? Would you have stairs that lead to the ceiling? Hallways that go nowhere?

I’m guessing your answer is no. Unless you’re Sarah Winchester. The wealthy widow and heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune built the now-famous Winchster House. Mrs. Winchester was convinced by a medium that continuous building would appease the evil spirits of those killed by the famous “Gun That Won the West.” Construction went on 24/7. There are windows built into floors, doors that open onto blank walls, staircases that go nowhere.

No blueprints were ever created for the Winchester house.

Websites are a lot like houses. At Future Now, we’ve used the “building a house” analogy for years to explain how we work with clients to design and build websites, using blueprints to plan every click; Persuasion Architectureâ„¢, as we call it*. So I laughed that much harder when I read Seattle-based graphic designer, and blogger, Shae Allen’s vision of people treating building a house in the same way most companies construct their website.

Here’s just a snippet:

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

What’s not so funny is how companies across the board think and act this way when it comes to building their websites. They simply design “pages” or “rooms” with little to no thought as to how someone will get there, or what different customer personas might want from that “room.” A good architect will work with the whole family to plan out what each person will want from each room, and combine it all into a house, where it’s easy for each family member to have the experience they want.

A good architect always has a blueprint.

Otherwise you end up with a house where you just keep building and building, changing direction with each new member pushing what he or she wants. You end up with rooms with no clear function, where you can’t figure out where to go next.

Sounds like your company’s website? If so, keep in mind that Sarah Winchester was off her rocker. What’s your company’s excuse?

Why do so many organizations move forward on website projects without a blueprint?

[*For an overview of Persuasion Architectureâ„¢, check out this video tutorial on how planning an effective website is like planning a house.]

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Comments (4)

  1. web design, potential disasters, most importantly how to avoid them[1]…

    So, you want to design a website? [I love those intros!] Everyone and everything is using the web and all the resources it has to offer. Some use it for recreation, some use it for revenue, and others use it…

  2. [...] “If Architects Had to Work Like Web Designers” blog post gave me a good chuckle today. Buildings are properly constructed by following [...]

  3. [...] peeked into my former life doing web development and wrote about the problem of business owners who don’t appreciate the need to plan a web development project. Been there, done that! Note to small business owners: The planning is [...]

  4. [...] Everyone and everything is using the web and all the resources it has to offer. Some use it for recreation, some use it for revenue, and others use it for reference or utility. I am one of those who use it for each of those and more. Being an amateur web designer [extremely amateur], I have run into many problems and difficulties involved with putting up a website. Their are many important steps to take before even beginning to put the site together. As I have learned from many others, building a website is very similar to building a house. [...]

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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