English articles, Top Tasks

A website isn’t a building, a website is a garden

A building is a project. It starts with an idea. It needs an architect, a builder, a time line, a due date, a completion. There is a beginning and an end. A website isn’t a project, isn’t a building. A website has no end, no final completion. A website is a garden.

For a garden, you need an idea as well, for sure. And often, there is a clear beginning, if only getting rid of the rubbish of the previous owner. And sometimes, there is an architect designing the landscape, laying out the garden plan. Moreover, sometimes there is a deadline and completion date as well. You might want the garden to be ready for its first party with family, friends or neighbours.

A website isn’t a building. A website is a garden. Buildings are projects, with architects, plans, builders, a deadline. Gardens need constant attention, weeding and pruning, and observing and testing what works and what doesn’t.

But that is where the comparison ends. A garden is work in progress, constantly and always. More garden similarities? Take these:

  • You can’t keep adding ‘content’. Too many plants and you would lose overview and detail.
  • You need to weed, remove unwanted growth. You need to get rid of what gets in the way of what you want to grow big.
  • And pruning! Cutting out old material to make room for new growth. Sometimes, what you prune away may still look beautiful. But any gardener knows that you need to prune away beautiful branches to make next year’s grow even better.
  • Moreover, you’d best had an idea about the purpose of the garden. What the garden is supposed to mean for owner and visitors: to feature shadow, open space or enclosed areas; to be decorative (flowers and shrubs) or productive (vegetables and fruit) or both; to offer sitting, eating, relaxing space; and so on.
  • You build attraction points – eye catchers that will draw visitors (and yourself) into the garden for further discovery. Eye catchers that in time can change or be replaced.
  • And you try and test. You try and test constantly, as a matter of fact. Would this flower or shrub or vegetable thrive better on this spot or on that one over there; why is this plant growing better than that other one; will this variety yield more fruit or flower. Trying and testing, all the time, on and on.
  • Observe – you constantly observe. A bit of a logbook or diary won’t hurt, to remember what worked and what didn’t, what is to be done in each season and weather type. Observations, facts, not opinions.

A building is a project , with a beginning and an end. Sometimes, you expand the building or renovate. These actions again are projects. Lots of ICT projects are buildings. Begin, end, and when it’s not enough: another new project.

Websites don’t function like projects. Websites can’t be built for five years, nor for three. Replacing an old website with an all new one isn’t the way to improve it. It may, but most probably won’t.

So, organisations better allow web teams not to work in the classic ICT project building way. Web teams should have the resources and the liberty to observe and try and test. To change websites in small steps, following intensively what thrives and what doesn’t, weeding away what gets in the way of the purpose. The liberty to root change in observations, in facts, not in opinions.

A website is a living thing.

A website needs constant attention and tender loving care. Observation and testing.

A website is a garden.

Such as Greta’s:



About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.


2 thoughts on “A website isn’t a building, a website is a garden

  1. Love the garden metaphor. I’m having an on-going conversation with university leadership about how our work with our website will never be complete. You’ve now given me a different way to express it. Thanks for that.

    Posted by Rick Hardy | 28 October 2013, 21:12
  2. Nice and good comparision 🙂 Never looked at it that way. I got a blog about design too btw, maybe you’re intersted: http://www.deesignre.com.

    Posted by markvogelaar | 18 October 2013, 10:10

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