The Flamethrower vs. the Pea-Shooter

March 16, 2012
Flamethrower vs. Pea Shooter

Would you rather light something on fire or pelt it with tiny flying vegetables?

While you may not often ponder situations such as these, here at ROI DNA, we address them every day. The flamethrower versus pea-shooter is a metaphor often used by our optimization-addicted CEO, Matt Quirie, and it’s very relevant to the client work that we do. Plus having a (proverbial) flamethrower around the office keeps new employees on their toes.

The Flamethrower
Oftentimes our clients will come to us and say “We want you to start from scratch and make our site better.” We refer to this as the flamethrower approach. We torch everything that exists and rethink the entire site from the ground up. This method offers the most creative freedom but also brings many challenges. Things like color scheme, logo, branding, and user interface all need to be taken into consideration when mocking up a design. Because the possibilities are endless, presenting too many options can work against you. It’s best to create and test ideas internally and only present the best ones to the client, otherwise you can spend weeks, even months, stuck in design cycles.

The Pea-Shooter
The other route that we often face is the pea-shooter. The pea-shooter comes into play when the client wants a specific part of their website optimized while keeping the rest of their site the same. This could be redesigning a landing page, a sign-up form, or just re-working the user flow. The requirements needed are usually very specific and while this makes it easier to design, the constraints present several challenges. Sometimes the overall design is lackluster and the designer within me wants to tear it all down and redo everything. This is when self-restraint plays an important role. Staying focused on the objective is key, since the client might take a complete redesign as an insult to their existing site.

Another challenge is that redesigning a specific portion of a site limits its effectiveness versus starting from scratch. There are often cases when other elements on a page, whether it’s a logo that missed the mark or poor navigation, interfere with what you’re trying to achieve and can affect the end result. So what do you do in this case? You have to work with what you’re given and make the most out of it. It might not be pretty but if it boosts conversions or increases click-throughs, then the client is happy and in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Fire or Vegetables?
As a designer, I definitely favor the flamethrower method, but it’s really up to the client to decide based on their needs. Either method presents unique challenges to which there are multiple solutions. The best way to circumnavigate these challenges is to think through the objectives and look at it from both a designer’s perspective as well as the client’s. Are you delivering on what they asked for? Are you giving the best possible solution? If you’re able to answer yes to these questions, then you can feel confident that the client will be receptive to your designs.

Moral of the story? At ROI DNA, we can throw a bonfire just as well as we can embrace whirled peas.

Quick Bio
Alex Huang is the Creative Director at ROI Marketing and specializes in visual design and branding. He has a passion for all things design-related and hopes that the insights he shares will help others become better designers.

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