Improving the Design Process

A well designed website requires a process.

Well designed websites offer much more than just aesthetics.

Well designed websites attract visitors and help people understand the company, product, and branding through a variety of indicators, such as visual content like images and videos, interactions, and text. That means every element of your site needs to work towards a defined goal.

There are two ways to achieve this, the time honored Waterfall approach and the development oriented Agile approach:

The Waterfall Web Design Process has basic, fundamental steps that need to be completed.

  1. Goal identification: In this initial stage, the design team needs to identify the website’s end goal, usually in close collaboration with the client. This is the most important part of any web design process. If these questions aren’t all clearly answered in the brief, the whole project can set off in the wrong direction.
  2. Scope definition: Once the site's goals are established, we can define the scope of the project. What type of pages and features will the site require to fulfill the goal, and the timeline for building those out. The initial goals should be clearly identified and agreed to by both parties to prevent scope creep, where additional pages or features are added to the project after it has begun.
  3. Sitemap and wireframe creation: The sitemap provides the foundation for any well-designed website. It helps give designers a clear idea of the website’s information architecture and explains the relationships between the various pages and content elements. Wireframes provide a framework for storing the site’s visual design and content elements, and can help identify potential challenges and gaps with the sitemap.
  4. Content creation: Content drives engagement and interaction while also boosting the site's visibility to search engines. Content that’s well written, informative, and keyword rich is self optimized and more easily picked up by search engines, all of which helps to make the site easier to find.
  5. Visual elements: Images, videos, brand identity elements and logos will either be provided by the client, or the project may call for new assets and style guides to be designed. Visual content can increase revenue and engagement by keeping guests on the site longer. High quality images and a well thought out color system give a website a professional look and feel, but they also communicate a message, are mobile-friendly, and help build trust.
  6. Testing: After the site is built out, all pages, links and site functionality must be tested. Combine manual browsing of the site on a variety of devices with automated site crawlers to identify everything from user experience issues to simple broken links.
  7. Launch! Once everything's working as planned, it's time to execute your site launch! Destination servers and databases need to be configured and domain registry updated. After the site is launched, the site functions should be tested again, along with SEO analytics, and site maintenance schedules should all be adhered

The Agile Web Design Process is based off a development process organized around sprints.

The Agile framework is a more collaborative approach. It is less rigid and more fluid and efficient. Instead of following and completing fundamental steps, it moves to iterate projects quickly. Designers work in tandem with Developers. Instead of passing items back and forth, they work collectively, sharing knowledge, and each learns from the other's experience. The different steps are still in place, but they occur simultaneously instead of sequentially. This flexibility allows for delivery of incremental product functionality. The goal is to provide rapid and continuous improvement of a solution.

Daily sprint meetings allow for more accurate progress monitoring, faster feedback, and higher productivity. Changes can be implemented and tested quickly without curtailing the design process. Product can be shipped and then further updated as necessary. An agile web design process that takes both form and function into account will create a harmonious structure from those elements.

Whichever framework is used, educating the client about the steps of the process will help define expectations and keep the project focused and on schedule.

The process can be fluid and adjustable to the individuality of each project. It will also provide measurable actions for the product team and keep them on goal.

Examining and evaluating the success and failure of each step of the process should be done at the end of each project to see if any improvements were discovered or mistakes were made. That will result in a lean, efficient  process. It should provide structure and form so this analysis can be measured, but not be so rigid as to enforce rules that oppose the defined goals of the project.