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Cognition

Redesign Week

What do they say about the cobbler’s son? The dude is always barefoot? Or the carpenter’s house has no roof? Stupid carpenter.

Yeah. That’s kind of us right now with happycog.com. Granted, we have shoes, and we have a roof. But the shoes have some holes in the soles and the roof leaks just enough to make your hair wet.

Our site was last redesigned in 2007. The sentence-based navigation we deployed was a simple solution that a lot of people dug at the time, and I still dig it. The site was a great example of what was possible back then, and has remained a functional, albeit a bit faded, marketing vehicle for us. Sure, we’ve made some tweaks here and there, but we’ve never really been fully satisfied. And you shouldn’t be.

We started down a redesign path in 2010, but we ended up back-burnering the project. We created some compelling design concepts, but we applied the brakes when scrutinizing them. When you assemble passionate people who live and breathe a brand for so long, you’re going to have strong convictions. But the trick is working through it.

What did we learn along the way? Well, for one thing, crucial internal initiatives should be given the same priority as projects that pay the bills, and they should be subject to the same kinds of controls. They should have established budgets, timelines, project managers, and clear decision makers. Subscribing to that mindset changes your perception. But even with that structure in place, it can still be difficult prioritizing internal projects over paying gigs when payroll needs to be met.

We are going to try something new, partially inspired by PhilaMade, a community of creative people in Philadelphia. Many Philly-based Happy Cog folks are active participants in this community. PhilaMade had Site Night back in April of 2011. It was described as, “One night, one website. You put a bunch of smart people into a room, provide them an environment to succeed, and enough alcohol and caffeine to keep them awake.”

For us, a website in a single night is a bit ambitious. But a week? A week is good. So next week, we are redesigning happycog.com. We are pulling people off of projects, importing people from different cities, and hunkering down. We will step outside of comfort zones and experiment with smaller teams and agile processes. We will make quick decisions. This process will be as much about experimenting with how we work together as it will be about creating something. And most importantly, we hope to emerge with new ideas we can use on our client projects.

Will we have an entire website at the end of it all? Probably not. But we will definitely have the foundation upon which we will make frequent, incremental improvements. And yes, there will be a few surprises thrown in to keep it interesting.

We’ll be capturing our progress over the course of the week, so stay tuned to @happycog and Cognition for updates.

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