Uncategorized #10 – 150 web pages will cost you $150,000

March 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

It’s late. Something about daylight savings, leap day? I dunno. I took a late afternoon nap and well here we are. It’s quite nice out in Brooklyn today, Still a little chilly, but sunny and crisp and everyone went to the playground. It’s one of those Brooklyn days. It would be more so if it were 99 out and everyone was playing around a fire hydrant and Oscar the Grouch made an appearance, but this is Brooklyn in the winter. Yes, it’s still winter. But not for long, I suspect. I wonder how the warm temps and sunny days ahead will help lessen the current panic flowing through everyone’s minds. I saw a woman spray the swings before setting her child in one. I wonder how much anti-bacterial spray all the kids are gonna eat this spring. That’s where I’m at.


Last week we talk about email, and tracking, and The Markup and privacy.  I sent my first un-tracked email, and it felt just fine, In fact it was a little relieving to NOT check my open rates every five seconds. I tweeted about it and my tweet got some attention and now this list is at a whopping 80 subscribers! So, thanks for sticking with it, and agreeing to not be tracked.

The tracking thing sort of took off in my mind a bit throughout the week, and I decided to remove Google Analytics and WordPress Stats from my personal website and our Studio site. I’m just using Fathom now and it feels much better. 

This Week

This week was pretty insular. I spent a good portion of it working from home. Not because of COVID19, but because it just made sense given a series of meetings I had racked up for the week. Sometimes it’s much easier to just do these things from the comfort of my apartment. In the end it started a trend and I wound up spending three days here, and now I’m more than eager to get back to the office and sit at a desk for a stretch. There’s other people there, which is something I really enjoy about the space.

OK, so this week, I’ve been thinking about a few things. One has to do with a tweet that David Nuñez sent out a few days ago that got a lot of conversation going and caused me to think a bit harder than normal about how clients (namely museums) purchase technology from folks like me. Full disclosure, David is one of those clients and so I tend to follow him closely and troll him when I can.

He posted this tweet:

David Nuñez on Twitter: “Hot Take: In 2020 what does it cost to build from scratch a museum website (w/ tickets and collections gallery)? (You’re not allowed to say any variant of “it depends” or ranges like “free to $100 million dollars”)  Answer w/ a number. #gutcheck.$100K#musetech #museweb”

It provoked a number of industry people to chime in and talk about all the things. It’s a good thread with people calling out all kinds of numbers based on “experience.” 

Then Seb Chan (my former boss) replied with one of his “that’s it, that’s the tweet” replies.

Seb Chan on Twitter: “The larger the number of people needing to be involved or convinced, the larger the cost… “

And he hits the nail right on the head, at least for me. I always tell people about how I used to think of my job at Cooper Hewitt as “guy who deletes webpages.” At some point we started to go through a website redesign project which I was in charge of and it quickly became clear to me that everyone at the museum, each staff member, had a page on the website. It was some kind of reflection of their success as an employee. Like, here’s my webpage about the program I run at the museum, and look how good I am at running it, because look at how good this webpage looks.

This is kind of how it goes. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon at many of the institutions I’ve worked with since Cooper Hewitt. The website isn’t a device designed in service of the museum’s patrons, but a tool meant to exemplify the work done by each and everyone who works there.

The end result is an incredibly complex website project, with an incredibly heavy investment, both externally and internally on content development and “make my page do this” kind of business. 

So, in workshops we lead, I often do this fun exercise, which you can feel free to copy and do on your own. 

Get everyone who manages, or produces copy or has anything to do with the website in a room. You’ll notice it’s the entire staff. Ask everyone to put on a post it note, or three, all the pages that they think are totally necessary and important “to them.” Soon you’ll have a wall of the entire site as it currently stands, plus some things you probably didn’t even know existed. 

Now, the fun begins. Ask the group to discuss getting rid of half the pages. They need to work together to decide what can go and what can stay, with an eye toward the site being “for the visitor.” It might take some time, and there will likely be some arguing, but they’ll get it done.

Then, do it again, half the pages. Some people may leave the room in frustration. It’s ok, just keep going, Half, and half again, Keep going until there are just three pages left on the wall. Invariable for a museum it will be the visit page, the about page and what’s on. It’s fun exercise, and really just meant to provoke conversation and get people working together, and I dare anyone to try and make a site with just these three pages, but yeah…do this if you haven’t yet.

Seb’s comment is so true. The cost of these projects is nearly entirely based on complexity of the staff. The site design, coding, integration, etc. this is all mostly in hand these days and just requires time and typing, but the content development, and the getting people to work together part, that’s gonna take an enormous amount of time and cost more and more money depending on how many cooks are in the kitchen. The website of the United Nations might be one of the best examples of this. It’s endless! Just have a look at their footer.

Websites websites websites

I’ve been thinking of redesigning my own website. It’s been sitting there kind of dormant for a long time now, and I think it’s high time I build something that is a reflection of some of the work I’ve done. I’m going to try and make it as complicated and exhausting as I can. In the weeks ahead I’ll share my progress and I’ll probably do some of that outside the scope of this email, since it’s gonna be pretty dry for a while. I just want a thing on the web where I can put all the things, including an archive of these emails. Luckily for me, I’m a staff of one, so it should go pretty smoothly, right?! 


I’m supposed to travel next week! I’m scheduled to head to Stockholm Sweden to speak at a conference about social media and photography. I’m really excited about it, but also unsure and a little worried. Not so much that I am worried I’ll get the big bad virus, but that I’m doing what I should do. In Sweden everyone is “totally chill” about the virus. At least from afar it seems like the sentiment is that it’s just another cold you can get and not a big deal, and all that. Here in the U.S. of course, panic is starting to set in, and people are going buck-wild crazy, stocking up on all the wrong things to weather out the storm, like it’s gonna hit like a hurricane and then we’re all gonna wake up and the sky will open up and everything will be normal again—kids playing baseball in the distance, families sitting on blankets in the park, and the subtle hum of tanks rolling down Flatbush Ave. 


I’m cutting out the Playlist and Reading list sections this week since I haven’t really been tracking this stuff too well for some time now, and I’m just gonna pause them until I’m better at this. 

It’s the 10th newsletter and I’m in the “should I keep doing this” phase. It’s a real struggle sometimes and to be honest, it starts to weigh on me late in the week. I usually write these up just before sending them and I’ve been thinking about trying to do them a little ahead of time in the week, but I never really find the inspiration until last minute. So, send me some encouragement, send me some thoughts, keep me going!

Until next time, have a good week!


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