Hawaii Office of Homeland Security
This was my first website project working with HIC. We completed it in 2017 and it’s still live to this day.
Putting in the work
This isn’t going to be so much a story about creating an awesome website that totally wow’ed the client as it is a story about creating a relationship and building trust with the client… although, both of these things did end up happening.
I went into this project as a new hire at a private tech company. We were contracted by the State of Hawaii Department of Defense to build a website for the newly formed Office of Homeland Security.
My job was to sit down with the client and ascertain their needs with regard to their website. Up until this point I had only done work as a freelancer, working with small businesses, and as a web developer for UCSB, creating websites for academia. I had never worked on something with such high stakes before… I mean we’re talking about meeting with government administrators at the Office of Homeland Security, they protect us from terrorists… these are serious people. They meant business, and our ideas were met with resistance and there was friction in our communication at first.
I guess I was a bit intimidated but I also saw this as an opportunity to build something from nothing. I could turn this thing around and build a positive professional relationship with this client using only my skills as a communicator and my experience as a designer. In order for them to respect my ideas I had to generate design authority.
At its core, generating design authority is an exercise in relationship building and the foundation of a good relationship is good communication and mutual respect. Having design authority means that the client trusts that our solutions we come up with will help them achieve their goals. Listening to them, asking them appropriate followup questions, sharing my own insights and research, narrowing down and defining their design problems while figuring out what they were trying to accomplish, meeting after meeting, we started to build a report. We listened to and respected each others points of view and opinions on what kind of information would be beneficial to the public and how to display it on the site. They needed something, together we solved it, and I delivered it.
From there, things kind of got beautiful and we built a good working relationship and accomplished everything we set out to do. We were able to do some really good design work.
There was a noticeable difference in everyones comfort and attitudes, including my own, from the day we first met to that day they came into our conference room for the final time to complete the debrief and content editing training. My team sat there with them and we talked story, we joked, we laughed… a lot, and it felt great. We had bridged this gap and it paved the way for me for many more positive professional relationships in the future.
Web design & development
I built an extensible, website that made it easy for OHS to share important information with the public. It has a clean, minimalist style, which is great for accessibility, and it has a little bit of a Hawaii feel. For this project, I created a completely custom WordPress theme from scratch. It uses Bootstrap so it’s highly responsive and it works and looks great on all screen sizes. My team and I wrote a lot of the web copy and created most of the graphics.