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Iterations in a design process

Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Servage

design-iterationsWhen working with the design process of a website you go through a series of steps before reaching the final goal. This process may seem apparently random but usually goes trough the same workflow every time. Learning about this process and understanding the workflow is key to improving both the steps on the way, but more importantly the final result, the website itself.

The beginning

Usually the need for design work comes from a desire to build something new or improve something existing. In the web world this would likely be to build a new website for a purpose you do not have a website for yet. I.e. a new product or maybe even a whole new project/company/etc. It could also be the improvement of an existing site.

If you have all the time in the world, you will always benefit from scrapping the existing solution and starting from scratch. Unfortunately we do not live in a world where time is greatly abundant, and especially commercial site owners may need results rather quick.

Before any design process can start effectively, you need to clearly define the goals of the website. You must have a good understanding of the features of the final product in terms of their textual description. Not the design itself, which is naturally the outcome of the design process. However, you need to define the website you want to build. Otherwise there will be too many variables on the way, which may delay the project signifcantly.

The iterations

Your first draft is rarely ever close to the final product you take into live use later. Why is that? The normal design process makes you change your draft over and over again, until your are satisfied. And that is a good thing. Working through a complex process in iterations makes the whole project more feasible. It is impossible to grasp, define and actually create the whole perfect thing in the first attempt.

When you understand and accept that you always work better in iterations, you will also quickly learn that attention to detail is important, but only in the right places. Otherwise you waste enormous amounts of time and effort. During the first iterations it usually does not pay off to fiddle around with a lot with specific icons, margins or other design details. You will end up with a product far from the initial draft anyway, so do not waste your time fixing small things that are irrelevant later on.

The first draft should be your general layout, and preferably you make different variations. Even in closely defined projects you can use alternative layouts and elements to validate the project definition and thereby check and see that the assumptions and definitions are good. Do not blindly accept a requirement if it means that the design process is restricted to a specific preset path. In such case always question the design by creating variations.

During your iterations you add more and more details as you get closer to the final product. At the very end you will also play with the right icons and margins, but then it makes sense, because these are usually final touches to a great process of many iterations.

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