Iterating on a Website Design

September 8, 2015 9:55 pm

I’ve been building websites for about 10 years – and it comes as a pretty natural process now. But I was thinking… from someone on the outside who isn’t quite as into the technology or methodology (Hi Mum!!) that it might seem like some type of black art.

Imagine you’re a client and you come to us to create a website.

After a brief we go away and come back a week or so later with a wireframe, a mockup, and maybe even a prototype. But how the heck did we come up with these? Did we just go away to our remote mountain side cave, meditate in front of a magical website deity while a gregorian choir covers Led Zeppelin, then open photoshop, slam down some perfect layer effects, thus instantly creating your site?

The reality of web design is regrettably less fascinating. For me, the key part of the web design process is iterating.

What actually happens when we go away with your brief, we sit and talk for a bit about what’s important to the website. Perhaps we’ll write a list of the key points people need to use the site for, or even do a wireframe to demonstrate these.

We’ll look at your branding, we’ll look at whatever collateral currently exists, we’ll look at the sites you like, we’ll look at your competitors sites, and we’ll look at anything else we can manage to get a hold of. All of these give us an idea of how we can put what users need to do and how you might want it to look and work.

When we finally create a mockup, we’ll reflect how it might not highlight a certain feature that can help people. So we’ll do another mockup and include a bigger button for it, but that button doesn’t fit with your current branding. So we’ll do another mockup, and make the button fit, then find a matching photo to help emphasis. We’ll show this design to you, and you might have some feedback that provides better insight into how people might use that button more often.

As we go through this process dozens of mockups might seemingly be cast aside. But they actually live on; each version, each iteration, continuing and enhancing the design.

Here’s a screenshot of a project I’m currently working on:

iterating-website-design

Each square in this design was a homepage. The original was simple, we didn’t have much to work with. But as we got better informed and understood the problems the site was solving, we created a new design. Eventually we have the finished project.

In a perfect world (i.e. unlimited budget) a finished design might improved upon further with real-world usage statistics. We would launch a site, and after a few months of collecting data, update the design to improve a section that’s not being used enough, or remove a section that isn’t proving effecting (which is a whole other art form itself).

So the actual secret? For us, website design is basically working hard on something until it solves the problem. To iterate and improve.

Written by Denham Haynes

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