Welcoming in a new year offers a timely reminder for those of us in business to take stock, reevaluate and refocus.
We've considered the idea of having a kind of 'Seedr design manifesto' before: a set of guiding principles that would keep us on the right path and would also allow our clients and prospects to easily see how we work and what we stand for. We've been refining our processes for a few years now and with that in mind here's a few key elements that we'll definitely be focusing on in 2013.
Business objectives and metrics
For most businesses the time for 'brochure web sites' is long over. The most important question we'll continue to ask our clients at the beginning of the process is "What business objective do you want the web site to support?". It's important for designers to really understand the businesses they work for so that the relationship can be seen to add real tangible value. Establishing benchmarks and finding out what to measure is key to the ongoing success of the site. A client that understands the role of design in delivering real business benefits is a happy client.
Start with content
It's never been more important to think about content strategically, and if web sites are essentially conduits for content then designing them without the content is like designing a book cover before you know what the story is going to be. Content must be meaningful, valuable, useful and helpful for users. We believe this is something that some web design agencies do not always articulate well, and a failure to do so simply reinforces the unhelpful view that design is simply 'adding the pretty stuff'.
Mood boards and 'style tiles'
Once we understand the business and have an outline for a content strategy we can start to think about visual elements. A great (and efficient) way to begin this phase is to adopt the 'mood board' approach. Samantha Warren's Style Tiles are a great example of a simple solution to a problem faced by many. Creating 'a common visual language for clients and stakeholders to discuss through' early on really helps avoid multiple iterations at a point in the project where it becomes costly and problematic. And as Samantha also states 'They work well for clients who have established brands and need them to translate smoothly to the web.'
Designing in the browser
It makes little sense to use Photoshop to make polished, flat pictures of web pages. We need to understand how a web site will actually work on a multitude of devices, and that's why building lo-fi wireframes and then in-the-browser responsive prototype models work so much better and shows the client how users will interact with the site. It also allows us to begin user testing at the earliest stage possible.
Designing better design processes
By implementing these phases as standard practice for all clients we're not only hoping to improve our own workflow but to make a leaner and more efficient design process that will deliver more value and strengthen our relationships with our clients. Ultimately 2013 will continue to be about about designing for clients with their users at the front of our considerations but also working better together with those clients to forge a clear path to a successful and happy new year!