Steve Jobs once said "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
The concept of focusing on how a device or interface works underpins the modern web industry’s thinking and approach, with catchphrases such as “design-led thinking” and “user-centred design” liberally applied to agency websites and client proposals. It’s a good thing. People are the end users so it makes sense for human need to be placed at the forefront of every design decision.
The Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) have created a Digital Service Standard to ensure “digital teams build government services that are simple, clear and fast.” It’s a must read if you’re managing a government project, especially given services designed or redesigned after 6 May 2016 fall within the scope of the standard. If you’re a private organisation it’s still worth a review as the DTA have done a great job summarising contemporary thinking and digital methodologies.
A typical website redevelopment project runs through a series of stages designed to unpack and address needs in logical steps. This mitigates the risk of misinterpretation and doubling back, and helps deliver a better-quality outcome.
The process looks a little like this:
- Information gathering and understanding user needs
- Development of user personas and journeys (who are our users and what are they looking for?)
- Information architecture review and fine-tuning
- Wire-framing (low-fidelity layouts used to test content sequence and blocking)
- Interface design (applying brand, designing pattern libraries, etc)
- Development (front-end coding, CMS configuration, custom functionality, integrations with other systems, etc)
- Security testing, accessibility testing, and bug fixing
- Deployment to the live environment
- Activating promotional comms
One of the biggest oversights is often the content that drives better user engagement. Lifting content from an old site or existing documentation is a quick fix, but it doesn’t necessarily fit the design-led thinking philosophy.
Content, like a user interface or underlying technology, needs to be well considered and well crafted. We encourage clients to begin thinking about their content at the start of a project – not as a final deliverable to be slotted into the site a week before go-live. We also use cloud-based tools for teams to collaborate on content audits, editing and sign-off procedures.
If budgets permit we encourage the use of facilitated brand and tone-of-voice discovery sessions. Outcomes include a detailed brand pyramid and lay the foundations for a content strategy. Developing a writing guide can help editors or sub-contracted writers maintain a consistent style, express the essence of an organisation’s brand and highlight section styles. Some pages for example may need to express empathy and understanding, while others are purely transactional. Get it wrong and you can quickly alienate a reader.
Written content, like the interface surrounding it and technology underpinning it, needs to be skilfully interwoven into a project. To ensure this happens we often start projects from a communications perspective, with comms and brand teams engaged early and often. Couple this approach with organisational objectives, user tasks, design, and development solutions and you'll have a truly usable, scalable and useful website.
Hit us up for more details and some real-world case studies if you’re starting a new project and need advice.