Building AEC Quality .com, Or how I spent my Summer “vacation”

After my gonzo journalism adventure in Key West at the end of July, I actually realized something that I only recently shared with my wife.

I like writing.

But if you look at the recent activity on this website and over at AECforensics.com, you wouldn’t be able to see that.

Shortly before my trip to Key West, I was invited to speak at a national conference about sustainable design and construction for the retail industry. I knew that I wanted to do something a little different, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that was going to be.

A short digression on presenting at conferences and tradeshows…

Every tradeshow and conference I’ve been to, the presenters do one of two things:

  1. They use horrible PowerPoint templates, load every slide up with as many bullet points as possible, and while presenting, they basically are reading off the slides. Their handout, will typically be a printout of the slide deck. What’s the point in watching someone like that speak? I’d rather read the slides myself.
  2. Other presenters will only show their presentation on screen, but for the handout, they will write a paper. For highly technical presentations (I sit in on a lot of presentations by lawyers on complex issues of law), I think this works really well. Attendees can focus on the speaker, and anything they might need to follow up on is included in the handout.

I decided to take the second approach – but with a twist.

Here is how I have prepared for my presentation:

  1. My slideshow for the presentation is fast-moving, with lots of images and only small amounts of text. (Pro Tip: When you have a slide with only a little bit of text, make sure your typography is awesome – it is still a visual presentation.)
  2. For the handout that is being distributed to all attendees, I created an entirely separate presentation consisting of around 20 slides, or less. The slides are highly legible (again using good typography), and serve as a teaser for the presentation. The handout serves two purposes: Get people to come to the presentation, and then visit the website…
  3. Instead of a paper handout that might get thrown away, I built an entire website based around the presentation.

Here is the website:

AEC Quality .com

What’s the Point?

Because the subject of the presentation is something that I am very passionate about (quality in the built environment), I want to make sure that I get the message across. Some people learn better by listening, some people are more visual learners, and some people like to read. (There are also people that learn kinetically – through motion – but a personal trainer I am not.) I want to cover all the bases, and provide information to people in the format that works best for them.

Plus, not everyone that I want to communicate this message to will be able to attend the event in Atlanta, GA. But as long as someone can get to a computer, they can see what I have to offer.

Inspiration, move me brightly

After assembling all this content, I realized something.

Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed writing. I’m not sure that I’m particularly good at it, but I do enjoy the process. Especially writing that is more technical in nature, or essays even.

So now that I have found a subject that inspires me (improving quality in the design and construction industry), I’m going to take a shot at writing a book. Not sure when I will have the time to do that, but at least I have a good head start and some sense of direction.

More From Less, in action

Here’s the thing. I enjoy slaving all day long over a hot server as much as the next web developer/designer, but sometimes there are more effective and efficient options when it comes to putting together a website.

I initially started to build AEC Quality .com using WordPress – a platform I am well accustomed to. But after the initial build, and after spending hours tweaking design elements (and the typography, always with the typography…), I cut bait. Most of the websites that I have built for clients I did using Squarespace (not an affiliate link). I have done two or three websites now using the new version of Squarespace (6), so I gave it a shot. Within four hours, the design was complete, including the typography. I spent another 20+ hours creating all the content, but at least I didn’t have to worry about the design.

If you need to throw a website together fast, cheap, but with grace and style, use Squarespace. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this post – I still be tweaking plugins and wrestling PHP.

Anyways, check the website out at AEC Quality .com. (Full disclosure: If it wasn’t for my wife’s awesome photography, the site would not have turned out this good.)