Things a Chameleon Would Say
In the previous posts about effectively translating your vision, we discussed the importance of including a developer in the brainstorming stages, writing down your thoughts, having a dedicated project manager and understanding everybody’s role. Today we’re going to discuss the final two most important items you have to undertake to effectively translate your vision: “Thinking beyond design” and “communication is key.”
Thinking beyond Design
We often see clients stressing over the design of a software or web project without paying close enough attention to the functionality and workflow of the application. In fact, workflow is more important and should act as starting point for user interface design. It is through workflow that the user performs all tasks. Usually it is only a one-step process, such as filling out a single form, but sometimes wizards or context-aware interfaces are required to perform sophisticated tasks. These need to be discussed in detail and agreed upon early in the project cycle, because changing complicated workflow in the middle of development is a time-consuming process and can potentiallyeffect other aspects of the project.
Good questions to ask early in developing a project are:
- What tasks do we want users to perform in order to achieve our goals
- How do we make it easy/elegant/entertaining to perform these tasks
- What are the states/steps for each task, how do we inform the user about his current state or errors that occurred, how do we properly instruct the user
- What should occur in the back-end code when these tasks are performed in terms of data generated (new content/user data recorded, general/error log messages written, emails sent/etc)
For most projects workflow is usually a one or two step process. In addition, most tasks have been standardized over time, functions such as user registration, contact forms and purchasing products are pretty much the same across the board. Therefore it may not occur to the client that underlying workflow governs the project/website. Overlooking this fact may lead to unintuitive interfaces and processes and hinder long-term project success. This may also lead to non-standard implementation of certain workflow processes that can be time-consuming and risk-prone.
Communication is key
Finally, the most important part of translating your vision is the communication, not only between you and the developers, but between others within your organization. Steve Demby, our director of development, was able to sum up the importance of communication pretty well:
- Do not communicate with the developer solely by email. You need to speak on the phone or in person with them periodically
- Set up regular meetings to review the progress
- Set up web reviews or meet in person to visually review the project regularly. Don’t just talk about the project; make sure you see the progress
- Don’t go too long with out reviewing the project. If you do, designers and developers will go off on a tangent, straying away from the idea that you have in mind towards the idea they may have in mind
- Be aware that if you go with a free-lance developer that has a full time job the project will normally take MUCH longer than expected
It does not matter if you are a large Fortune 500 company or a small entrepreneur, your vision should be clearly stated, budgeted for and managed with expectations that can be met. A reputable programming firm will give you access to the project manager, developer and in most cases even the CEO and top VP’s. Having that connection helps ensure that everybody on the development team has the client’s vision in focus. The bottom line is if you don’t have direct communication access to the guy in the trenches developing your vision don’t be surprised if the project stalls.
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