Very Simple & Incredibly Complicated

We recently celebrated the launch of Castle Craig’s new Romanian website by having dinner at a fish restaurant in Bucharest called Happy Fish. I had the dorada.

Making a website is both quick and easy and incredibly time consuming. I could log onto my gmail account right now, click on the button that says “blogger”, choose a layout and — hey presto — within minutes have a website. I did this once and felt very pleased with myself, but when I asked “What now?” I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t have anything to say and so nothing ever happened with that site. It’s probably still there.

But if you work for an organisation that wants a new website then it will inevitably get complicated.  I can’t imagine many organisations that would say “write what you want, let the designer do his worst; shock me!” (And even if they did someone would object and you’d have to re-do the whole thing). A website is the shop window of an organisation and that means lots of people will want to have a say, and the sooner you accept this the quicker you can get the job done.

Fortunately we were spared any fireworks between the “creatives” and the management by the simple fact that we were told to simply copy Castle Craig’s main website. “Just use the design template and translate the text” my boss had said. It sounded too simple and uncreative for my brilliant team in Bucharest.

That conversation took place more than four months ago. If we had done an original, creative, brilliant and dazzling new design we wouldn’t be anywhere near completion, we would be in the endless Lord-of-the-Rings-type swamp of negotiations about how best to represent the organisation. Thank God we followed orders.

Castle Craig’s main website (www.castlecraig.co.uk) has about 150 pages of well written technical information about addiction, its treatment, the team, the 17 different therapies and how to get in.

The first task was to work out what pages didn’t apply to Romania, and this was harder than you’d think. Our long suffering translators (Rita, who is from Moldova, and Silvana, who lives in France) translated many pages that ended up getting the chop. Sometimes you need to see something many times before you realise it’s irrelevant.

Although translation was a mammoth and seemingly endless task (images of that swamp come to mind) there was so much more to it. One of the worst communication practices that an international company can do is translate their website from one country to another. This is quick and easy but it doesn’t work as each country has a totally different culture and nobody likes to see a text that looks like it has been translated from another language. So we had to adapt the site in a hundred subtle ways, always making sure that we don’t misrepresent them in any way.

Then we had to check each and every technical word, such as “addiction” (dependenta in Romanian) with our main psychiatric partner in Romania. Olivia Ianculescu, a young filmmaker in Bucharest, emerged as our chief editor during this phase.

After a series of difficult births (each page was like a new born babe that had great potential but urgently needed its nappy changed), the page would go to our technical maestro: Manuela Boghian. Her main task was to make sure that each page was backed up with key words so that we get highly placed on Google’s search engine (the Geeks call this SEO: Search Engine Optimisation) and when Romanians type words like “dependenta” into Google we come up on the first page.

There were a lot of other steps involved but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that we built up an amazing “web development” team all over Europe — Castle Craig’s main PR person, Victoria, is based in Zurich and our webmaster Ben is somewhere in Germany. The fact that none of us are anywhere near Castle Craig, which is located about an hour south of Edinburgh, doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference.

Does this make us an “outsourced” team? Are we in the same boat as those warehouses full of underpaid Indians who answer phones for high street banks in the UK and USA?  It certainly doesn’t feel like it as we all tend to work from home (I am writing this on my kitchen table), and nobody is complaining about money.  But it’s interesting that coordinating a job like this is as easy in Bucharest, which is one of the top “outsourcing” locations in the world, as it would be in Edinburgh.

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