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Seeing the forest through the trees with web design

Seeing the forest through the trees with web design

As a web designer, it is easy to get preoccupied with aesthetics and technology. We look to design galleries for inspiration and feel a strong desire to build that show piece for our portfolios. New techniques and amazing modules are always coming out that promise new functionality and integration.

Guess who gets lost in the process...

The site visitor has a specific reason for coming to the website. The site contributor has a specific business need to fulfill and minimal time to interact with the site to get the job done. Neither of these website use cases is enhanced by the latest design tricks and newest functionality. In fact, we often make their job harder if their needs are not our primary purpose.

How do we make sure that the two most important users, the visitor and the content contributor, are not forgotten? Agile project management to the rescue. I have found that the easist way to make sure that, as a designer, we don't veer off the path is to incorporate user stories into the planning process.

The translation of core project information into user stories is a relatively easy way to get an early handle on the project. Reading through the user stories gives a much clearer sense of “what the project is” than lists of features or content and functional requirements. Clients can easily read through the list and ensure that their concerns have been captured. (http://johnnyholland.org/2009/08/user-stories-a-strategic-design-tool/)

User stories do not have to be a difficult process. In fact, they should allow you to create more concise planning documention, as the focus is on the most important type of users rather than justifying every possible website feature.

I wish that every web developer/designer should have project management skills. In fact, the flip side works as well as every project manager should have development and design skills. I was amazed to learn that the government of Estonia has started a project that will see every 6-year old learn how to code. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2012/09/06/why-estonia-has-started-teaching-its-first-graders-to-code/). In North America, we are still educating our kids to work in non-existant factories so I would assume the onus is on the parents to to have this type of forward thinking.

I am getting off track. Just make sure that whoever works on your next web project has the right combination of strategic business acumen and technical knowledge. Ping me and we'll talk...