I’ve never been a fan of long, exhaustive proposal documents. Reams of paper filled with jargon and buzzwords frustrate me; as someone with a development background, I value simplicity in communication above all else.
Early in EffectiveUI’s history, we would respond to RFP’s with such big proposal documents. We’d assign three or four people to a proposal, and each of us would take a section. The sections were inevitably redundant and frequently verbose, and it wasn’t unusual for us to send a 50-100 page proposal.
Lately we’ve been following a trend started by our Director of User Experience, Tim Wood, and building our proposals as 5-10 slide presentations in Keynote. Moving to Keynote has had obvious benefits in allowing us to easily add graphical visualizations to our proposal and focus on simplicity, which has been great. It’s also been much easier to write; rather than sending people off with individual assignments, we whiteboard a combined approach as a team, and then assign one person to build the slide deck. We save a lot of time on our end, and the potential client receives an example of our data visualization and organizational skills instead of a giant document.
Recently I was assigned a proposal where, for whatever reason, we weren’t using this method and had to produce a written document again. It was then that I became aware of one of the less tangible benefits to our Keynote approach: a greater ability to boil down key points to just a few sentences. I’ve never been extremely verbose, but after doing three or four proposals in a visual design language, it was amazing how different the experience of writing was, and how much harder I worked to cut out the fluff and present the proposal in its most pure and refined form.
In a culture where written communication is our primary means of interaction (i.e., email, status messages, chat, etc.), the ability to write well is one of the most valuable assets anyone can have. I’m glad to have the opportunity to continually improve this skill at EffectiveUI.