What does a crashing and burning six ton satellite have in common with Web design? Of course by now, everyone has heard of NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite plunging to Earth somewhere near you. NASA expected what’s left of the massive structure to return home in many, many pieces around midnight 23 September. Almost never appearing to be wrong (except in some pretty widely publicized instances), NASA seems to have a talent for running finely tuned operations seemingly without a hitch. I observed how calmly the public was informed and their fears were assuaged by NASA’s incessant mantra: “there is no danger to the general public.”
NASA assessed the surroundings, culture, and operations of many nations during this “crisis.” They tried to understand what millions of people were feeling as they went about their daily rituals of school, work, church, mosque, sports, and, most importantly, social networking. NASA also had a plan just in case some of these people were unfortunate enough to have one or more of these hell stones from above rain on their parades. Similarly, when we design for our customers, we must understand their surroundings, culture, and operations. How large is their company? It could range from the size of a mom and pop hardware store to the local java mixer making your favorite brew. Where are they located physically and how do they want they presence represented on the Web? And, most importantly, what are the consequences if the site crashes? Online payments could be hampered and their operations could be crippled. It is very important to understand what the customer requires, but equally imperative to know how they operate. Just ask NASA.
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Written by Duane