By Russell Shaw
Late last year, Andrew Thrash decided he wanted Flash animation
on the Web site of his five-year-old alternative medicine
e-commerce site, CompuPharma.com.
After placing a description of his need for a Web page designer
in the Look for People area of eWork Exchange, Escondido,
Cal.-based Thrash received numerous responses. None intrigued
him more than the offer from Gerry Diwa. Based in Manila,
Philippines at the time, Diwa was running his own design firm,
Island Code, in the wee hours of the morning. The rest of
his workday was occupied with his day job as an Internet Service
Provider technician and occasional evenings working as a guitarist
for a local rock band.
The Chosen One
There was instant bonding, Thrash says. Having an offshore
Web designer who happened to be the same nationality as his
wife intrigued him. With that in play, "his gallery quotes
for my site all but pinned the tail on the donkey," Thrash
"I'd decided I'd spend some time bumming around some sites.
Being a Web designer, my (Web) hangouts are obviously related
to design and development, e-business and technology news.
It was in one of those sites where I saw this mention about
www.ework.com," Diwa recalls.
"Hmm," Diwa said to himself. "Why not give it a look?"
Diwa was in the Look for Work area of eWork Exchange when
he found what he now recalls as "this oddly titled project"
'Animate The Dot.' "My curiosity piqued. It seemed to be
a creative challenge," he recalls. "I decided to press the
'Content Match' button. I thought, 'there are hundreds, even
thousands, of equally capable Web designers out there.' But
guess what, I was chosen!"
Designing by E-mail
About two weeks transpired from the time Diwa initially exchanged
e-mails with Thrash to the start of actual production. All
of this was done via e-mail between the Philippines and California,
without any design-basics phone calls.
After a few e-mail exchanges with Thrash, Diwa says he started
to pay serious attention to the details. The aspect of Thrash's
post that caught Diwa's attention read in part: "the dot expands
to (a) large pie-chart, where each slice will become a (clickable)
image map, each leading to an HTML links page."
"Hmm," Diwa thought again.
Diwa went to the drawing board, sketching, compositing, and
investigating how best to implement the project to fit the
description Thrash had provided. "The project could be implemented
in several ways," Diwa recalls thinking. "It could be done
through GIF animation, through DHTML animation, or through
the cross-browser debugging and testing issues inherent in
these solutions, Diwa decided that Macromedia Flash 4 would
be the best tool to use.
In e-mail exchanges with Thrash, Diwa got the green light
to try Flash. With that key decision made, Diwa put together
a storyboard describing and depicting each sequence of the
animation and then e-mailed it to Thrash. A couple of days
later, Thrash replied with additional details and refinements
to the storyboard. Diwa added Thrash's suggestions, finished
the storyboard, and began production.
After production began, Diwa e-mailed every sequence he developed
to Thrash for approval. Several such exchanges took place,
most of them dealing with clarifying and refining certain
aspects of the design display sequences. You can view the
final product at http://www.islandcode.com/gallery_compuPharma.htm.
Diwa gets around. With the project completed, and a recent
relocation to the Caribbean island of Curacao, Diwa has some
thoughts on how best to manage long-distance relationships
between designer and client where consensus on visual presentation
is critical, but face-to-face or phone contact isn't practical.
Sink or Swim
Diwa's main observation is that e-mail is not a magic bullet
that will automatically get both sides on the same page. It's
merely a facilitator, the success of which can sink or swim
based on the client's willingness to work with the designer.
"If anybody thinks that designing Web sites for someone who
lives miles apart, where the only communication is by e-mail
(is easy), better think again," he points out. "If it is already
difficult dealing with and understanding a client with whom
a designer (is in the same room with), imagine how it is with
someone who is time zones apart."
Diwa says that if there is a lesson to be learned from this
experience, it is that "nothing beats having a good client,
one who knows what they want and are able to express what
they want in words. A good client is also diligent and energetic
about their project, quick to provide resources and information,
answer questions and provide feedback thereby helping the
designer realize their vision."
Then, and only then, with that chemistry in place, can e-mail
start to fulfill its collaborative potential.
"Working together through e-mail brings the best out of both
the client and the designer. With every e-mail and sent reply
kept for reference, each detail is always at hand," Diwa says.
"E-mail also affords each party enough time and space to concentrate
on every item on the (designing) agenda."
Now that the redesigned site is live, both parties are pleased
they made the contact. "eWork might be (Diwa's) ticket to
an IPO," Thrash says with pride in his selection a selection
he wouldn't have made had he not discovered eWork Exchange.