I remember creating my first website as a freshman in high school circa 1997. The internet was new and vibrant and my goal was to get my name out there and watch the magic happen. I quickly started learning HTML while throwing anything I could think of up on the webpage. I ended up with a glowing, rotating logo with mismatched fonts, colors and processes. It appeared as if some magic web wizard vomited half the web on my screen.
Since then, I’ve been part of more new designs / redesigns / optimization projects on the web. Surprisingly enough, I find many of the project happen in the same manner that brought me to high school fame with a rotating text banner; throw it up there and think about it later. The problem with this method is multi-faceted. I’ve seen projects restart several times over because the designer wasn’t aware of the functional requirements. I’ve seen websites redesigned without considering how the users behave or what possible scenarios may be possible. I’ve witnessed major functionality changes launched without any sort of testing. All of these issues result in a loss of time and money with any company, no matter the size or scope. It was only the projects that followed a thorough plan that were successful.
1. Plan – Meet with your team and decide what are the goals the site or page must accomplish. Go ahead and discuss other issues such as scope and time.
2. Analyze – If existing, what process or design on the current page / site is failing? What must be fixed? What do you know about the users, the personas of the users, or what scenarios the user may be involved in?
3. Design – What are the design requirements such as content, color, logo, the UI, etc.? Develop a prototype (I like to follow the rule of thumb in creating 3 prototypes).
4. Develop / Test / Refine – Use the prototype in user testing with real customers. Adjust the prototype and pass on to development. This finished product MUST be tested. Learn from that test and launch follow-up tests until the initial goal from the plan is reached.
No matter what type of web project you are involved with, the steps above can help you be successful, and keep your company from unwittingly investing time and dollars in a failed project. This isn’t 1997. Now go optimize those conversion rates.