Interview: Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler on Web Redesign - WebReference Update - 010906 | WebReference

Interview: Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler on Web Redesign - WebReference Update - 010906

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) September 6, 2001

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This week we interview Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler on their new book we reviewed last time, "Web ReDesign: Workflow that Works." Kelly and Emily wax creative about the Web site redesign process, and how the book came about. *- link to us today *- newsletter home

New this week on and the Web:

1. INTERVIEW: Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler on Web Redesign 2. OTHER VOICES: * Exploring Users' Experiences of the Web 3. NET NEWS: * Flash rival SVG gets green light from W3C * Dot-Commers go back to School

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. INTERVIEW: Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler on Web Redesign

To follow up our review of "Web ReDesign: Workflow that Works" we interview the authors, Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler. Years in the making, this book is designed to make the lives of Web designers easier. By following their methodology you can save yourself a lot of headaches on your next site (re)design. Let's learn some more about the women behind this landmark book, and Web redesigns in general.

>WEBREF: Who are you and what are your backgrounds?

>KELLY GOTO: At UCLA, I was part of a trial multimedia class. We had 4 Macs and hypercard and learned Director in its infancy. We were eight students, very excited at the possibility of design+ interactivity - not to mention sound and animation! By the end of our class, we presented to Apple and they donated 24 computers to the school. That started the computer lab and was the beginning of our multimedia careers.

After a few years of advertising design and art direction, I started a small design studio in LA and started getting into the interactive market. That was 1995. By late 1996, one of my primary clients announced they were starting the first entertainment online division - Warner Bros. Online - and asked me to come in as a Sr. Producer to help launch the division. That was an amazing time, fun and torturous. I started thinking about downloads and usability, testing and tasks. Mostly because the experiences on the Web were painful at times.

Since then, I've started more than a few companies, some successful, some now defunct. I've worked with a lot of clients and projects. All great experiences. I've flipped and switched roles so many times I don't even know how to define what I do anymore. Recently, while on vacation, I tell people I'm an author and teacher. I like that.

>EMILY COTLER: I have been in graphic design since college in the late '80s, and moved into Web development painfully, slowly, and cluelessly in 1997. I found a niche, started waxcreative and the rest is history.

>WR: Let's talk about your book "Web ReDesign" and Web redesigns in general. Kelly, how did your Thunderlizard talks lead up to this book?

>KG: It's really based on things that have worked for me over the years. Very little (if anything) existed to help a small designer or firm getting into Web development when I first started. I felt as if I was developing and designing in a vacuum. Multimedia was one of the first areas where teams needed to work together. It was necessary to have programmers working alongside designers, for clients who had little to no experience in the field. I didn't really know what a producer or project manager was. I certainly had no clue that I was operating as an information designer as well. I was just organizing information so it made sense to the entire team, and asking questions along the way.

Through my own (nightmare) projects I started to realize there were fundamental things necessary to prepare and organize before, during and after a projects started. It is really all about communication. I started sharing information and developing my own processes, and finally in 1997 had an opportunity to share it while co-presenting at a Thunderlizard conference. I actually lost half my presentation due to a 'save' error 5 minutes before I was to go on stage. I basically winged it, started talking to the audience, and have been doing very casually ever since! People loved the PDF that accompanied the presentation and it grew with time. Someone translated it into French for me once, another translated it into Spanish. I wonder how many times it has been downloaded.

As the Web industry grew and changed, it was apparent many of the sites were going through redesigns, and most of my projects focused on redoing what had been done before. It became a natural topic and a great direction for the book.

>WR: Give us some recent clients/example Web sites that you've worked with.

>KG: At gotomedia, we work with clients large and small. We just completed a wireless pilot program in partnership with some heavy- hitting clients - which I can talk more about when the pilot program is completed. We redid the product animations for Recently, we redesigned and relaunched (which is in the book) and are working on a few projects now for a software company, a healthcare company and a photographer's Web site. Of course, we're working on the relaunch of - can't wait until the site is live ;-)

>EC: At waxcreative we focus on design (primarily Web sites) for creative professionals and small businesses. We are 100% referral- based. We are currently in the final stages of launching a redesign for a children's charitable foundation. What is there now just isn't being used. The thing is four years old, and rarely updated, and was subject to haphazard information design from the start. By the end of September we will relaunch the first phase of the redesign. The site should be complete by December 1.

Besides that I have 7 author sites in varying stages of production, 2 slated to launch in late October early November, and 10 sites in maintenance. Full Web portfolio at

>WR: Give us your worst and best experiences in Web site redesigns.

>KG: Best: Client sign-off on first rounds of a fast paced, ridiculous project that combined a complete identity overhaul (new logo, new collateral, new brochure) and a new site redesign all in a 3-week time period. We had 3 teams working round the clock to meet the deadlines, and they did a fabulous job. The site was immediately noted for "" and won a few awards. Their internal maintenance team has since attacked it and I won't mention the URL.

Worst: Nightmare client with a last name that rhymes with "dufus" who had wanted a demo that turned into a redesign of the actual site - he had no time to even think, much less work with us to create a very complex front and back-end site. I worked round the clock for 3 months, made sure everyone was paid, and took a $40K loss, which I took as a lesson in screening for nightmare clients. The site never launched, the company folded (big surprise). Last I heard, he was starting up some retirement Internet company. Feeding off the older generation now, I suppose.

>EC: Best and worst both have to do with information design. Worst: not thinking through the content organization or the naming and labelling of navigational cues. Best, having the wireframes fully outline the site at the level where it helps design and production (phases 3 and 4 of our Core Process) is significant.

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>WR: After adopting your own Core Process, what improvements have you seen in your Web (re)design projects?

>KG: When we follow the process, we remain sane. Seriously, even for the smallest project (my own presentations for example) I realize I need to start by defining what I am doing and structuring it before I start. The more organized I can be up front, the more successful the project is throughout.

>EC: Streamlining! I work so much better in teams now. I used to do everything myself. but as my business grew and I took on more clients, doing everything by myself threatened every budget. That's not a possibility anymore. Adhering to our own core process helped me streamline and delegate.

>WR: What are the most important things for designers/project managers to keep in mind when redesigning a site?

>KG: Communication. Make sure everyone is on the same page throughout the process. Have a process. Think like the user and understand their needs. Don't just redesign to add new colors, have some measurable goals and/or specific reasons for the redesign.

>EC: Three things: (1) It's all about the audience (2) Track your hours and (3) Communication. I could go on: clear goals, relevant content, smart design, and clean execution.

>WR: What are the most asked for features? What are the most popular/effective features you actually add?

>KG: Tricky question, every site is different and features can be design elements, animations or applications. Since I believe in keeping things very, very simple, I often take away requested features and stick with a basic site which meets the needs of the audience, and then go from there.

>WR: How important are content audits?

>EC: Very important. It's potentially compromising to appropriate existing content. The content may have been one of the problems in the old site. Going through the content allows you to remove the content that's no longer working, or may not be relevant to your site's users.

I guide my clients to go through and pick that which they really think is necessary, that which they have gotten positive user feedback on in the past, and leave behind the rest. It works with clients' comfort zones. Once they gather what they think is necessary, THEN I suggest that they give it one more go around and strip away the extra. Culling is usually easier on the second pass.

>WR: What are the most common problems you've found in existing sites you've worked with?

>EC: Clients not understanding the process.

>KG: Too much information for too many audiences. I sometimes say "trying to do everything for everybody ends up being nothing to no one." (Emily will have fun with my grammar on that one!)

>WR: I like that you had all these experts chime in for your book.

>EC: Thanks, so did we. :)

>WR: Do you subscribe to Jeffrey Veen's liquid/rule-based Web design philosophy? Where tables, DIVs, and font sizes are relative and everything flows?

>KG: Sometimes. Most sites will appear on so many different browsers and platforms it is impossible to predict the site's appearance on everything. I like to focus on a target browser/ platform and make sure the design works - and then use liquid pages and relative font sizes to ensure consistency (as much as we are able) across the board.

>EC: Sure, if you have the budget for that kind of design/ expertise. Kelly works on big projects. I focus on small businesses and creative individuals. Budgets are small and tight. Reality is important.

>WR: Do you think JavaScript rollovers and Flash are overused today?

>EC: Flash, yes, rollovers, no.

>KG: Rollovers are helpful for navigation, and Flash is a great tool for communicating complex animations in a fast-downloading format. However as with anything, people misuse Flash and attempt to be 'creative' when it just ends up being inappropriate and sometimes annoying (how much dramatic fading and flying text can we have and fancy intros with a "skip" button?)

>WR: What browsers/platforms do you normally target?

>KG: 4.x with no fancy plug-ins.

>WR: If you were to summarize your book, what would you say?

>KG: Whether an in-house webmaster, a freelance designer or a corporate project manager - this book will help you rethink and reposition yourself for a successful redesign. This book is truly for any team member working on a project - or if you are solo, you are filling many different roles. Either way, this book is a guide, a roadmap with some great tips and inspiration thrown in to help you along the way.

>EC: Not just something for everybody, it *is* for everybody.

>WR: Where were you gals when I was working at Internet Connect in 1994 (a now-defunct Web design firm) :) ?

>EC: :) I was a junior designer doing 100% print, mostly production, and killing myself on weekends freelancing. I have since started waxcreative, written novels, learned to snowboard, jumped aboard the Web, visited London, and accepted that while work is defining, it is not everything.

>KG: I was a designer/art director at an ad agency, working on car brochures and movie posters and longing to get into the multimedia world of CD-ROMs that was passing me by. The company I was at actually started "the Spot" which predated MTV's "Real World" series and was one of the first "reality" shows in existence - online or off (I didn't work on it, it just struck me that at that time, reality shows didn't exist.) I was dreaming of a time where I would start my own company and get out of the corporate life. That 9 - 5 thing kills me. I would rather work 7AM - 2AM for myself than regular hours for a corporation.

>WR: Kelly and Emily, thanks for your time.

About the authors:

Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler met at a Thunderlizard Conference and Emily subsequently published an article about Kelly in Publish magazine. The rest, as they say, is history. Both experienced Web designers, Kelly and Emily have worked with clients large and small. Kelly's workflow lectures led to their book, "Web ReDesign: Workflow that Works." Kelly Goto founded and can be reached at Emily Cotler founded and can be reached at /-------------------------------------------------------------------\ ** Announcing NanoTech-Planet.Com and Conference & Expo** Get the latest news and developments focusing on the business of nanotechnology. Understand the current applications, and learn where this technology will take biomedicine, materials science, microelectronics and optics in the future. See the companies and labs behind nanotechnology and the VC firms and Gov't agencies reviewing/investing in this breakthrough field. Conf.- Boston 11/29-30


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. OTHER VOICES: Exploring Users' Experiences of the Web

>Exploring Users' Experiences of the Web

How do users organize their Web usage? Two HP researchers present results from a qualitative in-depth interview study of how users browse the Web and combine browsing with their other activities. First Monday, Sep. 5, 2001

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Flash rival SVG gets green light from W3C, Dot-Commers go back to School

>Flash rival SVG gets green light from W3C

After more than a year of revisions, the World Wide Web Consortium on Wednesday recommended specifications for scalable vector graphics and animation (SVG) that backers say could give popular Web technologies a run for their money.,,10_879061,00.html,4586,5096618,00.html W3C/, Sep. 5, 2001

>Dot-Commers go back to School

Out of a job, dot-commer? Many are going back to school and trading their options for books. The Daily Californian/New York Times, Sep. 5, 2001

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor,

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