In Praise of Occasional Brochureware

Those of us immersed in the online world tend to go a little ga-ga over the cutting-edge stuff — social media, social networking, RSS, viral video, etc. While these new channels for online activism are cool and all, what if you’re working with a campaign that really needs a public face and that’s about it? Sometimes, a stiff dose of brochureware is just what the doctor ordered (particularly when accompanied by a medicinal gin and tonic, for the malaria of course).

Let’s look at an example, a little-bitty site that I just helped launch for my day job at the National Environmental Trust. As a side project, we’re working with some folks in North Dakota to help raise awareness of global warming’s possible effects on the state and the benefits Dakotans might reap from climate solutions. This campaign doesn’t have much in the way of resources to throw into online activism (they’re mostly focused on working directly with local groups and local media to spread the word), but they do need a site to show basically that they’re for real.

So, poof, we built them a classic flat site, with no interactivity and no bells and whistles but instead with a short introduction to the issues and the activists. It’s quite literally brochureware — the text derives from a four-panel fold-out flier and the layout is designed to feel like a piece from your local chamber of commerce. I was on short deadline, so it’s built in HTML tables (take THAT, CSS-layout snobs), though with server-side includes and CSS text styling to separate presentation and content.

The lesson? Not that Colin is a lazy sod who didn’t want to build a more complex website (that’s a totally separate issue), but that your campaign should build the website you NEED rather than the website you COULD build — let the ends drive the means. In this case, the site’s definitely a little thin on the ground right now (one section has kill-me-now “coming soon” language, for instance), but instead of adding high-end features over time, we’re likely to be concentrating on improving the text and linking to authoritative sources. Of course, if the campaign shifts gears and decides to work on mass citizen mobilization, we’ll go back in and revamp the entire thing. But for now, brochureware does the job. Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good — sometimes simple is all you need.


Written by
Colin Delany
View all articles
1 comment