Archive for January 2013

ABCs of Web Design

We are talking about Web Design in the broader sense i.e. not just visual design but all the elements that need to come together to create an effective website (Strategy, Architecture, Content, Functionality, Visual Design, Integration and Implementation) – as touched upon in an earlier post.

ABCs of Website Design and Development - Key Drivers

From that perspective, it becomes clear that many skill sets / disciplines are involved – some focused on the looks and some on the under-the-hood / less visible aspects – that together make the site an enjoyable and effective website.

So, the key question – who is driving (or who would you like to drive) your Web Design efforts?!

When a business (small business or a large corporation) embarks on the effort to create a new or a “new and improved” version of their business website, often the stated driver is that the site doesn’t look good or match the existing or new branding strategy / elements – and a “new design” is needed. In some cases, there is a realization that some desirable online functionality needs to be implemented right away (as in Target Date: Yesterday!).

So someone is brought in to lead the effort to redesign the site – and given the above – the Designer (the Visual Designer) or the Engineer (Web Developer) are often the usual choices. But if we view the entire effort from the perspective mentioned in the opening paragraph, we can see that there are other options.

Anyone working in this field will overtly acknowledge the importance of getting inputs from all these drivers – and ensuring the necessary dialog and collaboration across these areas. In the real world, people push for things from their angle – and it takes a fair amount of objectivity and conscious effort to keep the focus on the overall goals of the site – balancing the needs of the various stakeholders and aligned with the core goals of the business. (That’s not business speak … it’s common sense or maturity – that leads to successful sites!) Thus, there will be occasions when trade-offs will need to be made.

ABCs of Web Design and Development - Effective Collaboration

To meet the challenges above, it is helpful to decide up front where the leadership will be coming from – to help set goals and guiding principles, and to apply them to resolve differences in ideas and approaches. So that in the end, the site meets the overall goals – not just those of a particular discipline (or an individual – no matter how vocal or how much of an “expert” they happen to be!). E.g. a very slick and attractively designed site that does not meet user needs or business objectives. Or a site with a lot of functionality that leverages “bleeding edge” technology but that is again not a fit with user needs and/or business goals.

Diagram Note: In the diagram, Designer is used in the colloquial sense i.e. a Visual Designer. And Architect is similarly used in the general sense. It is not the “Technical Architect” role – which will fall within the Engineering box for this high-level diagram. The general Architect role is commonly fulfilled by a Product Manager – again in the original sense of that title – as opposed to the “Production Manager” role that has become common (as highlighted in a previous post)!

So pick your driver wisely (making your priority and approach clear to all), and enjoy the fruits of that choice – one of which could be a more productive and effective web design project – taking you to your planned destination!