Steampunk digital

I’m currently working on a website project for a charity operating in Asia with what might reasonably be described as a shoestring budget.

The strategy for the work is predicated on making the most of all the ‘established’ freeware and open source options available and bringing them together with a little ingenuity.

Underpinning it all is a content strategy designed to build a strong digital footprint, which will: raise their profile, optimise revenues and seek to level the playing field between the organisation in question and the charity behemoths with bigger budgets and significantly more resources. Watch this space.

But the project has also got me thinking about how the technical design and build aspects of projects are specified and implemented within highly refined and defined processes, while content is often (and still) and afterthought; created on the hoof at the point of need and cobbled together from existing collateral, which was itself created for entirely another purpose and delivery mechanism.

What would happen if we flipped the model above, introduced a little steampunk to our technical specification and, instead and as a rule, applied far more rigour, process and resource to the content?

Welcome to steampunk digital…

steam punk digital showing an old fashion steam engine hooked up to modern computer devicesIt you’re not familiar with steampunk, it started out as a literary genre that blended science fiction with Victorian ingenuity and their fondness for embellishment. For those of you who can remember that far back, I’d cite the 1999 movie Wild Wild West, with Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, as a visual reference.

Steampunk isn’t afraid of a little make do and mend. It likes to show what’s going on under the bonnet (hood and head). It is intelligent design with a little bit of Jules Verne imagination. Experience tells me that all projects come with finite energy resource. If too much goes into the technical side there is so much less for the content side of things. All aspects of a project require a full head of steam.

My Top 5 Tips for Steampunk Digital…

Figure 1 Don’t reinvent the wheel. There’s a lot of free stuff out there. Plus, no matter how unique you think your project is somebody will have tackled something like it before. Researching tools, software, competitors and comparators thoroughly can save time, money and red faces.


Figure 2 Apportion time and energy – not just budget. If you think solely in terms of money you start ascribing cheap v. expensive values to things which should not be viewed in those terms. On so many projects the content creation is seen as expensive in pounds and pence terms because organisations think it’s just about writing stuff.


Figure 3 Think ‘elegance’ and ‘finesse’ but only after you’ve thought ‘usefulness’ and ‘clarity’. Oh so clever apps, widgets, Flash modules, social media gizmos… only work if they assist the user and are grounded in a clear business case.


Figure 4 If you don’t know where the bonnet (hood) release is – don’t buy the car. I have ‘walked around’ content management systems where the only thing populating the meta data fields are tumble weed and lost opportunities. If you can’t see how it works you won’t use it properly. Good steampunk is predicated on understanding and being able to use something (and fix or adapt it).


Figure 5 The greatest steam engines ever designed do not work without steam and content is steam. Don’t build it if you can’t be bothered to fuel it (and keep it fueled0. It is a constant stream of content that delivers your website, email programme, social media campaign, etc, etc, to the audiences you want to reach and gets them where they want to go.