Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
Why your design will never be complete…
With all the good intentions in the world, you’re setting yourself up for a big fall if you think that thing you’re in the middle of designing is ever going to be complete.
A big shift.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve been in the same position, in the early days. Way back when we were designing static websites with just a few pages it was quite easy to work through the process of designing and building. Over the course of a year we might only have to add one or two things but probably nothing which would change the physical design of the templates we had already constructed.
We as designers no longer design websites. FACT. Whenever someone asks what I do, I generally say that I produce the DIBI Conference because avoiding answering the long drawn out answer for what I ‘really’ do is just easier. Answering ‘I design stuff’ just doesn’t cut it anymore and if the person you’re talking to is non-design and non-technical they look at your completely blank anyway. Websites are old news, they’re the 5 pager you designed for your local cleaning service. Due to the huge array of content creation systems like WordPress / ExpressionEngine / Joomla, we as designers could in essence create some templates and then let the user develop the content. That is all well and good if creating content is just what your client wants.
A website is no longer a website. It’s a business, I’d go as far as saying that 90% of websites are predominantly the main money earner in most businesses. Whether that be direct revenue like advertising, product buying or the lead in for a sale. Within every business things change, and when things change adjustments have to be made. Designers need to listen, look, analyze and improve our designs on a constant basis. Just because things might work for the first few weeks after a design has launched doesn’t mean it will in a few months.
Iteration, Iteration, Iteration…
We don’t plan, sketch, wire-frame, structure and architect for nothing. We need to listen first and act, if something needs to scale, it needs to scale! If it’s going to scale then you had better get it in your head that the design will change over due course. Iteration is key, if you’re designing and building something, get it out of the door early and sit back and watch. Analyze how users are using it, what can be made better and just because it is live don’t ever think that its done and dusted.
Tell your clients…
Clients tend to think that once they have their ‘website’, web app or system that everything is finished. They find it hard to understand that just because it is live it’s not actually finished. I’ve tried to explain this multiple times and have ended up with that cold blank stare. I’ve since figured out a much easier way to discuss why the design and development of a system is never complete and this is what I say.
You buy a brand new house, it’s very big and strong. It’s made of bricks, has a sturdy waterproof roof and you’re all ready for moving in. The removal men help you move in putting all of your worldly belongings in the right place. Two weeks later you notice some cracks appearing around the door and window frames. Not because the house is breaking, but its settling in to its foundations. Nine out of ten times these little cracks just need filled over. Over more time you’ll realise that you need a lampshade, carpets and a new colorful wall in the entrance area to the house. Your house is never finished, in the same way as your new system will never be finished.
Your design will never be complete because it was never meant to be in the first place. It can only ever be great as perfect is only ever in the future and you’re not there yet.