Photograph of a man standing in front of a crashing wave on Waikiki beach, looking out to sea

The scenario: you are an independent freelance developer with the good fortune to live in Waikiki, Hawaii. Site design is your primary source of income: as such, you’re particularly open to learning new ways to create web pages faster, speeding the delivery of each new commission.

Your personal network has provided contact information for Kai Keanu, the owner of Kanaka Fashion, a boutique that has been in successful operation on Kalakaua Avenue for a year. When you enter the store, you find it busy with customers trying on high-end clothing decorated with strong native patterns. As Kai explains, these are not your standard knock-off Hawaiian shirt: he takes great pride in using native materials, designers and tailors to create every one of the garments.

Kanaka Fashion does not yet have a web presence: to date, Kai has relied on pedestrian traffic from the boutique district and traditional advertising to drive sales. He wishes to change that, with your help.

Photograph of a Hawaiian dressKai ushers you into the back office, a small space festooned with fabric samples, button designs, and invoices. There is a traditional wooden longboard on the wall behind the desk, with a recent trace of white Waikiki beach sand on the tail. Kai’s office computer has a screensaver of native Hawaiian flowers; when the Apple laptop is jostled, you see that Safari is open.

The business owner quickly outlines his expectations: he needs a website that will attract the attention of potential customers, providing the store’s location, hours of operation and a preview of the garments and services. Kai stresses that he is not a designer, but an entrepreneur: like many people, he knows what he likes, but finds his tastes difficult to express in words.

With a hard head for business, he immediately asks for the price, number of pages and delivery date for the site. Rather than answering, you seek a few more details:

Does the site need to accept customer orders?
Not immediately: we couldn’t handle the volume, but it may be an option in the future.
Should the site be mobile friendly?
Definitely. We’ve had a few customers come in saying that they couldn’t find us on their phones. (You’re also both aware of the free WiFi signal that covers most of Waikiki beach and the boutique district.)
How would you describe your average customer?
High-end haole: tourists with money to spend, who want quality fashion that’s not bought in a stall off the beach. They tend to be green-conscious.
Does Kai expect to be able to change the site after delivery?
Yes,  I’ll want to be able to add new items as they come into stock.
Is there a logo? A style guide for the store?
We have a logo, sure. Not sure where the original file is. No style guide. We’ve been kind of feeling our way to work out what advertising works best.
What about photographs? Body copy? Video?
There are professional photographs you can use of the garments and fabric – we own the rights to those. We have some advertising copy, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate for the site. I don’t see video as being necessary.

After a little more discussion, you settle on a website that will consist of at least five pages: a general introduction and information page, a page each on men’s and women’s fashions, a detail on the development and manufacturing process of the garments, and a contact page. There is a general understanding that there will be no more than a few hundred words of body copy on each page.

The phone on Kai’s desk starts ringing; you agree to cut this meeting short and catch up again in two days, when you’ll have a contract and a time estimate for the site.

From this brief meeting, you’ve been able to deduce a few things:

  • When you get to the design stage, you’ll need to talk in metaphors and that the client understands. You’ve already spotted a few possible openers in the office.
  • Browser issues should be minimized: Kai’s clients are high-end, and he runs a standards-aware browser.
  • The site will have to be developed using a CMS.
  • You may – or may not – be considering adding a premium for the fact that you are designing a responsive site. (Some developers consider responsive design an added feature, while others regard it as working practice that should be part of every project. Either way, the development time of the site will be approximately twice as long as a fixed-width, non-responsive site).
  • and validation are a standard working practice, and will be a feature of the site.

Heading home, you start to sketch out a few ideas for the look and feel of the site, based on your initial impressions, but not holding to any one particular thought. You know your initial concepts could change entirely based the content that must be part of each page, which will be explored in more detail during the next meeting.

Images by Mark JP and Huzzah Vintage, licensed under Creative Commons.

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