Funny to think of your site as a dichotomous entity, isn’t it? You’d figure that if your website is awesome, it’s all awesome. Or if it’s terrible, it’s all terrible. Thankfully, nothing’s ever that black and white; your website included. I was perusing some of my favourite websites the other day, trying to figure out why they made some of the design decisions they do.
The most interesting discovery was the odd mixture of the intelligent and the (seemingly) whack-a-doodle in their web design decisions.
Even the most radtastic people had some pretty odd things going on. Some of the worst designs I saw had at least one or two redeemable qualities.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve silently audited past client websites. I paid careful attention to my thinking-space and our goals at the time. Some of the sites have stood the test of time and evolved seamlessly alongside the content. Others – usually those sites developed in violetminded’s infancy (otherwise known as The Age of the n00b) – are woefully undone by their stellar content.
Nothing is a complete wash on any of the sites I (re)visited, just as nothing is completely perfect.
Design is an iterative process.
Design on all levels (communication design, biznez design, lifestyle design, game design, etc.) is iterative. Catherine calls it a spiral. The Systems Development Lifecycle used to use a Waterfall. (Well, that’s what they were teaching when I was in school.) I look at things as fucked, unfucked, or in the process of unfucking. (See what I did there? MANY F-BOMBS. What, you were expecting demure? Sorry, love. Wrong site.) These days, most facets of design are Agile.
What the sweet mother of muffins is Agile?
The Agile software methodology came to fruition after software developers got really, really sick of working with the stupid Waterfall. Projects took too long. Sponsors and team members alike had problems buying into the overall goal of the project. Clients got fed up waiting for updates and often got bored between ‘em. Developers didn’t want to be chased by management. Management didn’t want to chase steering committees, developers, sponsors, and a whole host of other issues.
So, a few very special dudes threw their hands up in the air and said, “Why the HELL are we doing it like this?”
No one answered. (Crickets, really.)
I’m sure that no one could think of a good reason to keep going the way they were. Software needed a revolution.
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
This manifesto – somewhat formalized in 2005 – became the spine of many a software shop’s biznez and project management methodology. It was no longer about, “Get it done right the first time.” Instead, software developers and management alike were recognizing the need to release early, often, and adapt along the way. This effectively renders the Big Ass Project With No End in Mind moot.
Okay, I see that your eyes are glazing over. Stay with me here.
Your website is Agile. Hell, your biznez is Agile.
Once you release your website’s new design, copy, and product-line/services, you don’t just let it sit there. It would stagnate. Instead, you (rather subconsciously) follow the Agile Manifesto.
- Make sure your clients are totally stoked with whatever it is you’re offering.
- Ask for feedback. Often.
- Go back to your work, revisit copy and graphics, and release things totally quick-draw. (You heard me, Tex. Shoot from the hip.)
- Talk with your team and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
- When you’re building things for your biznez or your clients, trust your people to do their thing. Hired a web designer? Give her the support she needs to rock it out. A copywriter needs feedback to make sure that the tone is working. Your SEO person needs to understand your biznez intrinsically so make sure she gets it. And so on and so forth.
- Talk with your team using Skype. Forget email for the next ten minutes. Voice conversations go a long way.
- A site that engages and delights is a measure of success. For now.
- Pay attention to things that aren’t working for you (or your people) anymore. Take those findings to your team. Ask your team to give you feedback.
- Pare down to the essential elements. Stop cluttering. Start refining.
- Your people do their Best Work when they’re autonomous. Don’t micromanage. Let ‘em fly, baby. You’ll love the results.
- Check in with your team (and yourself) to see how things are fitting together. Something broken? Adjust course bit by bit until you get where you need to be.
- Rinse and repeat.
I’m a big fan of Agile methodology as a design technique. Just look at violetminded today. There are some things that work. There are a great many things that don’t. There are even some things that are just plain fucked. Thankfully, as I revisit copy and graphics and even the layout (shoot from the hip, remember), I’m mindful of paring down to the essentials and finding ways to make sure that my People are engaged and delighted. (F-BOMBS, YOU SAY?! No no. Not right now.)
Need help with figuring out how all this fits together in your website? I’ve got this great thing called the Creative Insight. As its own entity, it’s in Beta. I’m offering it at a deep, deep discount while I iron out the kinks in the process. Want in? All you gotta do is put your lips together and blow.
Wait. Did you just wolf whistle me?
… I might’ve liked it.