Cathy and I have been talking about building the boys a tree house for about 5 years now and this spring (Hard to really call it spring, right?) I finally got out the paper and pencil and started sketching out some ideas. Like all of my projects it grew from your more standard and simple tree house into a scaled-down version of a forest service cabin 8 feet above the ground! Thankfully, one of my close friends, Kevin Stickler, owner of Stickler Construction (who built my office with me 6 years ago) had an open week and knowing I would never get it done by myself, I managed to talk him into tackling the project. I have to throw a quick plug to Kevin, if you have any type of construction project from small to large I would say call right now – 907-717-5900 http://sticklerconstruction.com
While working on this fun project with Kevin I started to notice some similarities between building a custom tree house and a custom website. Here are 7 ways I found the process to be similar.
1. GOOD FOUNDATION
I’ve always loved the Bible story of building on the sand versus building on the rock and both tree houses and websites need a good foundation. For the tree house it was large beams, good hardware and a review from a close friend who also happens to be a structural engineer. The use of WordPress coupled with the Genesis Framework makes a great foundation for all of our custom websites.
2. CUSTOM DESIGN
For every website project we undertake we always try to create something special, a little extra design flourish or feature that will make the project unique and effective. With the tree house one of the features that I really wanted was to have one of the limbs of the tree travel up through the house and form the ladder that the boys would use to access the loft. This little custom feature really makes it a special space and the extra work it took to frame and trim around the limb was well worth the extra effort and time.
3. STRUCTURAL VERSUS SUBJECTIVE
There were many decisions to be made during the construction of the tree house. Kevin did a great job of saying when something was a cosmetic and subjective decision versus a structural one that dealt with safety and security. Likewise the design of a website has many subjective and structural decisions that need to be made along the way. Decisions like what colors to use, how big to make photos, how to showcase logos etc., are obviously subjective and we guide and share our opinions while also providing leeway for collaboration. Decisions regarding site optimization, ensuring that backups are taking place, version management is happening regularly, etc., are definitely structural decisions that we make based on our experience. Working with a professional that understands where and when to say no but is also open to new ideas makes for a great collaborative process.
4. COLLABORATIVE PROCESS
A successful project is made up of quite a few hands. Let’s face it, we all have different strengths. While figuring out a roof line is not one of mine, working through the design aspects is, it just comes more naturally to me. So be it a tree house project or a custom website I enjoy working with a team. I have noticed that two people can accomplish more than double what one person can. With our websites, during the development phase we ask the entire Sundog team to review and test the sites we are working on. Having multiple people involved provides not only testing from different perspectives and backgrounds but from various computers and operating systems which allows us to create a much more polished product.
5. CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT IS IMPORTANT
Whether a custom tree house or a custom website – customer involvement is crucial. If you are just buying an off-the-shelf website theme than this is not as necessary, but if you want something custom, something special, like my tree house where I wanted the tree limb to form the ladder inside the building, than the professional you are working with is going to have questions along the way and need good feedback. With websites, especially as the customer you need to understand your audience and the extra time you spend helping our team help you will have a very positive outcome on the project.
6. NOT A PERFECT PROCESS
This may surprise you (not my wife), but we make mistakes. Yes, it’s true. Not sure if we are supposed to say that out-loud but like contractors who buy extra wood for when they cut the board a little too short, web developers mess up along the way as well, and are prepared for it. What really sets apart the rookies from the pros is how mistakes are handled and dealt with along the way. Web development is a fairly complex process and it is very important to have a team that is able to troubleshoot and work through any issues that arise while consistently working towards a positive outcome.
7. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT WITH USE
After a website launches and you start actually using it, adding content and putting it through its paces you start to see ways to improve the functionality or the design and there are typically some technical kinks that need to be worked out. The same holds true for the tree house. Now that the boys are starting to have sleepovers and actually using the building I find I am adding chairs, tables and before long, I’m thinking my older boys will be moving out to Camp Sundog permanently!
Since most projects I start tend to grow I wanted to share a funny quote from Kevin along the way. He said, “Joe, I am convinced that your imagination is only limited by your income.”
Thanks for the great work, Kevin! I look forward to designing and building my own form of tree houses alongside great customers for years to come!