Lessons From a Recent Dive Trip

I go diving with the guys as much as possible. But this year we did nothing until September, when we did a three tank dive in Lake Michigan – exploring three of the famous wrecks just east of the Chicago skyline.

As we went through the day I couldn’t help but recognize the following truths about diving and how they apply to our jobs as web designers/developers:

  • Prepare in advance: Diving requires a lot from you – the first of which is the ability to stay organized and be ready prior to reaching the dive site. Stuff like gear, computer, tanks, appropriate clothing, cameras, certification cards, etc. Forget any one of these things and your dive may not even happen! Similarly with our websites, if we don’t put a lot of time and energy into the planning phase, we may not even get our site off the ground! We MUST know things like who our audience is, what we’re attempting to communicate, how we are going to keep the site maintained, etc. long before we go live.
  • Many aspects of the dive/design/development are NOT easy: Diving is not an easy sport – especially when it comes to the necessary gear. Yesterday we hauled 5 bags of gear, 5 personal bags, 15 tanks and close to 150 lbs worth of weights from a parking lot, down stairs, and onto the boat. Then did it all in reverse when we were done. Par for the course when diving. But the same is true with the design/development process. When I do a website for someone there are chunks of time carved out to write the code for things like CSS Navigation, image rotators on home pages, photo galleries, blog themes etc. These are big things based on the time and energy it takes to complete them. But they are fundamental pieces of the bigger puzzle. Take the time to do these pieces well and the rest of the site will come naturally.
  • We dive/design/develop in a bubble: Whenever you dive, you do so within a bubble of visibility (or what we call viz). Things inside the bubble can be seen and you know how long it will take to reach them. However, outside the bubble things are blurry and you don’t really have a good idea what they are, how long it might take to get there and how long it could take to get back. Similarly, when designing/developing, you are doing so inside a bubble. You see what is right in front of you and it’s hard to see outside of that bubble. Because of this it is good to have people not attached to the project look your stuff over and make recommendations about the design, layout, navigation, usability etc. They are on the surface, so to speak, and can see your bubbles. They know where you are trying to go and can often see if it is happening or not.
  • Know where your lifeline is: When you dive you always want to know where the boat is and how to get back. You will base your down time and distance traveled on this if you know what’s good for you. When designing/developing a good website your lifeline is the mission statement you came up with in the planning phase. For us at Granger, it is “Helping people take their next steps toward Christ…together.” This is the “lifeline” for our website. If we are helping accomplish this, we’re golden. But if we stray from it, we’re getting off track.
  • Have great partners: The majority of the time when you dive in lakes or in the ocean you must “partner” with a dive shop or dive charter company in order to reach your destination. They are the ones that have the boats and the knowledge needed to get to the dive location. If you pick well, these partners can make your diving experience amazing. If it was a poor decision on your part it can be disastrous – just rent Open Water if you don’t believe me. And the same is true about picking partners for your web projects. They can either be a HUGE benefit to you by offering constructive criticism, helping you think outside the box and push the technological envelope. Or, they can be a hindrance by failing to help you on your growth journey. These partnerships can be formed with a variety of people/companies including web designers, web developers, coders, App builders, streaming video providers, etc.
  • Enjoy both rides: When we finally had everything on the boat, we got underway and had a 55 minute ride to our first dive spot. It was sunny, the wind was warm and we were headed straight for downtown Chicago. The ride was beautiful and I was filled with expectant thoughts about the dives ahead. Then, after our three dives, it was another amazing ride back to port with the sun slowly setting, the wind in your face and thoughts about the dives racing through my mind. Likewise, in the process of designing and developing, don’t forget to enjoy the ride into the project with all the brainstorming, planning and implementation strategy. And don’t forget to stop and enjoy the ride out of the project with the completed elements, the newness of the technology and the satisfaction that comes from an official launch.

And you thought I was going to go diving just for the fun of it!

I think I’m going to change my mantra to:

Learn something new in everything you do…