Joe Rinaldi has written a brilliant article called “The ROI of Cool”.  In it he describes his disconnect from the impulse to pursue and produce “cool” designs and products.

In our work with nonprofits, there is often a misguided desire to have what I term a “high cool factor”.  It gets dressed up with fancier, quasi-professional words (ex: wow-factor, high-impact, sticky, etc), but it ultimately is a distraction from being effective.

The pursuit of cool is nonsense and web professionals owe their clients more.

Cool is not a strategy.  It is not an end.  It is an adjective that some people will feel and some people won’t.

What types of things occur when people pursue cool? I’ll tell you what happens: grown men with faux hawks.

The problem is that thousands of unqualified, inexperienced people are hired to build websites by people who don’t know anything about building websites.  

Here’s a classic situation: Your client says, “I’m paying, so this is how you’ll do it.” Or, “The CEO is fully committed to animating our logo.” Or, “What do you think of this faux hawk?”

Your response to these situations tells you where you stand as a professional.

The pursuit of cool has led to flagrant wastes of resources such as QR codes, the Flash intro, and the use of the Papyrus font.

The problem with the pursuit of cool is how uncool it ends up being. It’s either an attempt to imitate things that aren’t cool to begin with or to project an image that doesn’t reflect what your organization really values to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. You can be both effective and cool, but the pursuit of cool does not share the road with any other purpose.

I get it. It’s fun to be cool (or so I’m told). Not only do you get the satisfaction of doing something cool, but you get to hear others tell you how cool you are.

Ultimately, the biggest consequence is in simply hoping everything else falls into place. Successful projects have both clarity on goals and a qualified team of professionals able to achieve them.

You don’t start filming a movie with a great idea for what the BluRay packaging will look like. You start with a story.

Tell your story. Tell it well. Tell it often. You may realize that the point of your story is bigger than being cool.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.