I've been working on a loooong-term online course for a corporate HR group. We did the whole analysis and design thing. We prototyped an instructional model with pre- and post-tests, and even got into designing a course evaluation tool. At the outset, when everyone at the site wanted a say in the product, I tried to impress on them the need to focus on the content. When some hack with a VP title started blathering on about adherence to the corporate color schemes, I implored them to worry about all that later -- that we could address the colors, buttons, and spinning burning skulls when we got to a point of development. At that point in time, I really needed them to focus on the content.
Two years into the project, I get an email from a kid in their marcom group requesting a copy of the course so she can "brand" it correctly. I emailed her and the project coordinator stating that I'd be happy to deliver the course (and all associated source files), if the coordinator was ready to sign off on the project. That would mean I'm done with my stuff, I submit my final invoice. Within minutes of my reply -- literally minutes -- I received an email from the coordinator stating that he still had content to provide and that he was, by no means, ready to conclude the project.
Why? Why is it so hard to get through to people? I've tried a range of tactics -- from hard-liner to soft-shoe -- to get people working on learning products to understand the value of content. I've concluded that they resist, squirm, and avoid content because it's the hard part. Any monkey's ass can sit around and talk about color schemes and button choices. The content takes time. It takes focus. It takes thought.
So I'll spend the next two days making interfaces changes around barely enough content for a three-page comic book. I'll submit the revision and an iterative invoice, and patiently wait for the content.