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Giving birth to a website

March 1, 2011

I keep hearing the comparisons between launching a website and giving birth.  The idea surfaced yesterday during a two-hour XML training I participated in with my colleagues and our agency partner.  We were talking about parent notes and child nodes and the simplicity of copying and pasting and making a few edits in order to expand the family with just a few keystrokes.

It came up again this afternoon as we are hours away from an extended internal review and days away from going live globally.  Having sat for a long time on the agency side of this equation – and being a mother who delivered her son via c-section after 24 hours of labor – I’m not one to throw around this kind of comparison lightly. But I must say, sitting on the client side of a web launch for the first time in five years (an eternity in web time), I realized that my understanding of this metaphor, its aptitude and its application, to this point has been seriously flawed.

I always kind of saw the creative and technology process of the interactive and design teams as akin to in utero development.  I now realize that the essential people behind the magic, the ones I used to mostly be, are more like physicians, nurses, ultrasound technicians, and all of the attendant medical experts present up to and at a birth. They take this idea – this tiny little zygote – and make sure it develops to its full potential and is born healthy, screaming and sound. 

The mother – that’s the communications director.  The project manager is her best friend or sister, the one who makes sure she takes her vitamins, makes it to her doctor’s appointments and gets a manicure even when she can no longer see her toes.  The nervous father pacing in the hallway? He’s the CEO, or the head of the business unit, waiting expectantly to see if what emerges is, in fact, all he imagined. 

The last few days, hours, minutes before the site launches, everyone gets cranky and wishes they could go get a drink. Instead, they press on, stay awake, check vitals and crunch ice chips. And even when part this is all over, they may have to give up on sleep entirely for quite a stretch of time.

But here’s where the critical difference lies: no matter the skill of the surgeon who sweeps in to ensure a safe delivery, no matter the nurtuing of the nurse who schedules home visits and assures you she’ll be a phone call away day or night, the truth of the matter is those parents are the ones taking that baby home.  They will raise it, make it human, guide it as it makes its way out into the world. 

The medical team, meanwhile, will go on to provide prenatal care and deliver more babies, perhaps the very next hour or day.  Sure they’ll be there for advice.  They might even deliver the next baby a few years down the road, but ultimately, this is not their child.  The parents do their best to follow medical advice, but ultimately, the kid is their kid and part of their family, product of their gene poosl, living by their rules in their house, speaking their language, laughing at their jokes.

Which is beautiful. And kind of scary.

Let the countdown to launch begin.

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