Sometimes it’s vital to nail a piece first time. Recently a client needed website content ahead of exhibiting at an important trade show. I managed to turn the piece around at short notice and in record time, and was extremely proud and satisfied when the client said they were happy with it, that it didn’t need further work. I’d nailed it first time, on time. But normally I prefer to produce a first draft which isn’t too polished. Here’s why:

  • Easier to develop as you progress. Often it requires a leap of imagination to go from a blank piece of paper to a first draft. When a client sees something written down they may realise it’s not what they had in mind, even if it meets their brief. Because I haven’t spent ages polishing the first draft I’m happy to change direction.
  • Gets the imagination fired up. The first draft is about writing – creating. The next stage is editing which is a different process and uses a different part of the brain. The first draft can be refined and edited, but there has to be enough content in the first place to keep all options open.
  • Gets other people involved, namely the client. Show a client a polished draft and they will get hung up on the detail. They feel the need to query the use of double quote marks rather than single. A rough draft leaves scope for the client to contribute. They can see where you want to take it, but they are involved in how to get there.
  • Helps other people. Where there’s content there will be a designer or web developer. A rough draft gives advance warning of what to expect. They can start thinking about commissioning suitable images, page layouts etc. And they can identify problems such as the choice of submarine used for a case study may be of such military sensitivity that getting a photo requires security clearance beyond the level of most designers. Seriously.
  • Drafting is like breadmaking. The first draft benefits from being left to rest, or circulated for comment and returned to later. You can polish a draft to the point where it’s a law of diminishing returns – the extra time spent on polishing rarely results in significant improvement. Go away and do something else. You will return with fresh eyes and feedback which will make the next draft the one that nails it.