First you Panic

Every time I start to design a new project I secretly fear I've forgotten how. So when I started to design http://www.schmoozeletter.com I decided I would write down my steps along the way:

STEP 1: PANIC. This is always my first step. My mind races. I start to wonder if it isn't time to find a new line of work—I try to think of new careers for myself, which proves a pleasant procrastination procedure.

This time I came up with stunning new e-commerce concept: Dryer Lint of the Stars. Even the famous have dryer lint—but unlike you and me they also have fans who will pay top dollar for it. I know I would pay for Meg Ryan's. According to casual calculations made while actively avoiding work on the site, I figured that just one of her bulky sweaters would yield approximately one framed portrait in lint; a half a dozen hand-made lint-paper note cards; and 12 lint-puff key chains sealed for posterity in non-yellowing acrylic.

If you're thinking, "He has finally cracked," then you are so very wrong. If I was cracking would I think you'd think that? OK, maybe, but I have it on good authority (my wife's) that I haven't cracked, I just have occasional difficulty with the concept of reality.

Now, why would stars give up their precious lint? Cash, and lots of it! And perhaps the hope that some fan also just happens to be a geneticist who can clone them, extending their career. If they want top dollar, they can even contribute belly button lint!

See, I've thought this all out quite thoroughly and already have my first sale of Marisa Tomei's lint. My friend Ernest has offered to pay top dollar and now all I have to do is locate Marisa's laundry. My friend Karen has said she'll notarize it to prove that it's legit, and I think I can hire my wife, the unofficial "queen of eBay" to handle auction.

So I'm all set! Well, I am as soon as I meet Marisa. So if you know her, tell her I need to talk to her or do her laundry, either one.

STEP 2: COME BACK TO REALITY. I rarely like this part, unless I imagine that I will win the lottery. But that doesn't really count as reality, so this should give you a clue as to my state of mind.

STEP 3: IGNORE THE ADVICE I GIVE TO OTHERS: I do this to save time. Then, days later, when I realize that I haven't done much else other than look at watches on eBay and am perilously close to actually buying a non-working "Radium Swatch" that features an actual x-ray of Madame Curie on it, I come to the conclusion that I've wasted a lot of time.

STEP 4: DO WHAT I TELL OTHER PEOPLE TO DO. I force myself to answer the same hard, important questions that I force everyone else to answer (see the questionnaire below). This part can actually be fun and exciting, but concentrating hard on anything requires a lot more physical effort than most people give it credit for, and therefore requires adequate napping.

STEP 5: RECONSIDER LINT. I look at what I've done and think it's either embarrassingly bad or outright terrible and imagine that a blindfolded child with the hiccups and an Etch-a-Sketch driving over rocks in a Jeep without shocks could do better.

STEP 5: SNAP OUT OF IT. This is often accomplished by throwing out what I've done and starting from scratch.

STEP 6: FIND A VISUAL METAPHOR. It helps to be hit by a staggering bolt of inspiration at this point. Unfortunately, your chances of this are just slightly higher than that of being hit by a lightning-fast Ford Pinto.

Since inspiration eluded me, I had to actually be logical and realize that since I already had a personal caricature/logo I've used since my first site opened in 1995 , I could use that. The difference this time was that since the SchmoozeLetter can jump around from seemingly random points until it finally makes a picture, the logo could reflect this with a kind of "connect-the-dots" look.

STEP 7: IGNORE IT FOR A WHILE. The only way to clearly see something you've created is to put it away for a few days. Then I glance at it, quickly, pretending it was designed by a total stranger. If my first impression is, "I'm glad I didn't design this piece of..." then I know that something went horribly wrong along the way. If, however, I feel jealous of myself, I'm probably on the right track, creatively if not psychologically.

STEP 9: SHOW IT TO PEOPLE YOU TRUST but who won't be hurt if you totally ignore their advice. Apparently, my wife trusts me a lot.


Take a look at http://www.schmoozeletter.com and tell me what you think. (Well, if you're reading this, you're looking at it).

http://www.will-harris.com , http://www.elementoftime.com , http://www.mydailyyoga.com

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The very first thing I do with new clients (even before panicking), is to ask them these questions. It helps them crystallize what they need and want so you can more easily give it to them. They're not always easy to answer, but it's harder to create an effective site if you don't.

    1) First—in 20 words or less, please describe your business. The reason this needs to be short is because you must really distill the most important aspects down to as few concepts as possible.

    2) List five words that describe your organization today:

    3) List five words that describe what you want your organization to be in the future:

    4) Select one word from each group that's closest to the impression you want to convey. (You may think both apply, but choose the one that's stronger)

    [ ] Formal

    [ ] Casual

    [ ] Modern

    [ ] Traditional

    [ ] Serious

    [ ] Friendly

    [ ] Elegant

    [ ] Practical

    [ ] Hip/Trendy

    [ ] Classic

    [ ] Official

    [ ] Fun

    [ ] Adult

    [ ] Family

    [ ] Hard

    [ ] Soft

    [ ] Cool

    [ ] Warm

    [ ] Fast

    [ ] Slow

    [ ] New

    [ ] Established

    [ ] Young

    [ ] Middle-Aged

    [ ] Elderly

    [ ] Corporate

    [ ] Personal

    [ ] Upscale

    [ ] Mass Market

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Bitmotion Universal Component System


BitMotion's Universal Component System is like upgrading to a new version of Fusion. It's a component subscription system that gives you a continuous supply of new features downloaded right inside of Fusion.

These features use large controls that make them easier to configure and use. Choose dates using the built-in calendar and see images previewed right in the properties dialog; even animated GIF images display with their animations!

The annual subscription entitles you to freely download all the modules that are released within the year, plus get free email and newsgroup support, and receive free upgrades to the product.

Plus, if you have a basic understanding of JavaScript, you can create your own new features! Fusion has never been so easily to customize for yourself and your clients.

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Confusion? GotFusion.com!

Looking for support for Fusion? Your first stop should be http://www.GotFusion.com , created by "Team NetObjects" (those smart men and women who volunteer their time and talents to make a significant contribution to the NetObjects Fusion Technical Support Newsgroups).

At GotFusion you'll find all of the resources that were available at NetObjects.com; things like Fusion program Updates, Site styles, Components, Links, Tips and tricks from the pros, plus more.

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Alien Web Site

I always try to find inspiration in interesting sites. Here's one from Uhaul, the rent-your-own trailer company. This site, featuring Roswell New Mexico, is particularly well done—great design, interesting content—and a good example of how a content not directly related to a company's service can create word of mouth.  http://www.uhaul.com/supergraphics/roswell/menu.htm l

If you like Roswell-related things, you should watch alien teen angst on the show "Roswell," on the UPN network: http://www.upn.com/shows/roswell/roswellFrameset.ht ml

Great show, interesting but hard-to-read site.

For a new site from a designer who lives not far from Roswell, see:


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Add Photo Realism To Your Site—Save $10

Want to inexpensively add high-quality photos to your site? If so, I recommend Hemera Photo-Objects. Each 8-CD set contains 50,000 special photos where the objects and people are cleanly cut out of their background. Save $10 now by going to http://www.hemera.com/jumppages/fuseletter/jp-fusele tter.htm

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One More Thing: Countdown

There are only 40 days until Christmas. Want your script to automatically count down the days till? Get the script at http://www.javascriptworld.com/scripts/script08.06.htm l

Meanwhile, my unique watches and computer clocks make great gifts.

Buy online to avoid having to pack and ship!

The watches: http://www.projects-us.com/html/mystery-watches.htm l

The clocks: http://www.elementoftime.com Stop by and get a free computer clock or screensaver.

And if you know a publisher or agent who would be interested in publishing my work, please email publish@will-harris.com - Thanks!




Like the stories? Buy the book!

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.