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Landscape design: a great analogy for the web

Map of the garden at Versailles

I often find myself describing the digital domain to people who don't live and breathe it like I do. It's an intangible thing, and many of the concepts are coded in jargon. It doesn't help that every technology tool set uses it's own specific language, sometimes using the same words for very different things, or different words for the same things. What's a page? A widget? A layout? A template? A module, plugin or extension? It varies. The answer "depends".

Analogies can be a helpful communication tool to get the message across, and get everyone thinking in parallel.

One of my favourites, is to compare a web development project, to a landscape design project.

One of the first things you need to know, is who is this landscape for and what sort of landscape is it? The design required for a public park is very different to one suitable for the back courtyard of an inner city terrace house.

You also need to know what the maintenance resources will be. Will this be watered and tended daily? What about budget? Can we afford established plants, or should we plan to watch the garden grow from seeds or seedlings?

The key point of comparison, is that a garden, whether big or small, is a living thing. It will change, it will grow. It may die from neglect. It may become an un-manageable jungle without regular pruning and maintenance.

What analogies do you use to talk about digital design and development?

Image: XIIIfromTOKYO - Plan of the gardens of Versailles - Wikipedia - CC-BY-SA 3.0