Awareness, Feldenkrais, Writing

Everything is Connected: Feldenkrais and Web Design

20120820-all-connected

Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. – Leonardo Da Vinci

Learning to think in patterns of relationships, in sensations divorced from the fixity of words, allows us to find hidden resources and the ability to make new patterns, to carry over patterns of relationship from one discipline to another. – Moshe Feldenkrais

In Feldenkrais lingo, we say that a movement is “well organized” if nothing “stands out”. Such a movement appears smooth and effortless. For the mover, it might feel good, too. No strain, pain or imbalance stands out for them. When athletes and dancers take “well organized” to a high level, it seems as if they’ve made the impossible possible.

Most of us have likely had the experience of visiting a store, restaurant or website where nothing “stood out” in the Feldenkrais sense. Imagine a chic boutique, where walking in the door changes one’s mood because every detail in the space – from the colors, to the decor, the merchandising, the soundtrack, the dress and manners of the employees – has been carefully selected and organized to evoke a certain feeling and behavior, including handing over a credit card. Contrast that cultivated aesthetic with the vibe in many a thrift shop, where items are arranged helter skelter, might be covered with dust and only cash is accepted. Neither is better, and each model is appropriate to the businesses at hand. A very orderly thrift store that pipes in classical music might deter more shoppers than it invites, damaging the bottom line. Context, too, determines what is “well organized”.

To quote Feldenkrais, “If you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want.” There’s never a one size fits all answer, whether it’s human movement or a retail environment. Awareness allows us to discern what’s appropriate for the situation. For fun, imagine the range of eateries out there, from Michelin starred restaurants to pizza joints and dive diners. What is highly effective in one might be counterproductive in another.

What about websites? Those, too, can be considered “well organized” when nothing stands out, such as dead links, typos, distractingly diverse fonts, or mismatching text and images. Even if links work and fonts are consistent, if the information is not presented in a logical or easy to follow fashion, if the text is excessive or incomplete, or there is too little or too much white space, a reader might become confused or bored and leave before making a purchase or inquiry. This topic arose in a conversation with a friend who asked about hiring me to rewrite the text on his business website. Browsing it with fresh eyes, I noticed that what stood out for me was not just the text, but where it was located and how it appeared next to the images. Discussing this over the phone he said, “But I just want you to help me with the text.”

I explained that I couldn’t separate the words from everything else. If the site were to be “well organized”, I had to consider the prose in the context in which it interacted. He thought, like many people do, that if the text were compelling, that would be the ticket.

“If you have compelling text in a small, pale grey font that’s hard to see,” I said, “it’s less likely people will read it. If the page is dominated by strong images, people might overlook the text, even if it’s great.”

If his goal was to have everyone read the text and hire him, other aspects of his site might need to be rearranged or modified. Not necessarily overhauled but adjusted, much as we do in Feldenkrais movement lessons (small distinctions can make big differences!). He understood, but balked.

“In my mind, the text is what needs to be fixed, nothing else,” he said.

I tried to explain that was like going to a doctor and insisting that she treat one symptom or body part only, when the problem might originate elsewhere and a solution, while possible, could be more nuanced or time consuming than what the patient had in mind. I told him that I couldn’t in good conscience just work on the text without considering its placement and even the font size and color; it didn’t feel right to separate what was inherently connected. I could not “unsee” the bigger picture that I had already observed.

He understood, but expressed concern about spending money on a rewrite that might not result in new business. I told him I couldn’t promise that my text alone could generate revenue; having the best website possible (given one’s budget) is necessary but not sufficient for attracting clients. A compelling website is no substitute for the person behind it. Ideally the two are congruent and “well organized” so that a person who meets him and later visits his site, or vice versa, is treated to a fairly seamless experience where little stands out. He still had to network and market himself, which he hesitated to do because he wasn’t happy with his site and didn’t want people to see it, a Catch-22. I suggested that investing in a rewrite and minor reorganization would give him the confidence to pitch his services, ending the impasse. As Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves”. 

In Feldenkrais, we can build large, complex movements from small, simple ones. It happens gradually by attending to subtle differences, sensing how parts of the body influence each other, honoring the process and refining along the way. Since our bodies change, we need to continue to attend to these differences. The same is true in business and web design. We can take the time to build a website by paying careful attention to how the elements interact and identifying what stands out (in a jarring way) in order to organize it better. Since life, circumstances and technology are dynamic, a website will likely require periodic re-organization or redesign. These days, it can be off-putting to come across a site that either looks ‘vintage’, with obviously old images, or has not been updated recently. It can create the impression that the website owner is no longer actively engaged in their field.

Whether my friend hires me remains to be seen, and perhaps isn’t even the point. Having created several websites and promotional materials for my businesses over the years, I’ve developed an awareness around design and how elements connect. Feldenkrais thinking and terminology have allowed me to make explicit what I had implicitly understood. That’s both a fun gift and evidence that Feldenkrais principles can be carried to other disciplines, forming a toolkit for life.

 

 

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About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais trainee, and explorer of internal and external landscapes.

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