Notes taken while planning the Verizon FIOS site (don’t worry there were more).
I like planning all my projects on paper before I touch the computer. This frees me from thinking too much about the technical issues involved or what I can and can not do. Its also just a lot less distracting. Be sure to talk your engineers though your drawings, they have great ideas and aren’t to intimidated by your quick drawings.
Understanding who your talking to is key. For Aryty I actually took a trip to the Philippines to better understand both the product and the customer. Its not until I entered the world of prepaid phones that I realized most of the world does not pay for the time they talk at the end of the month. When they run out of recharge their phone is useless until they recharge it with prepaid minutes. It exists here but there it’s the way everyone does it. Minutes become currency.
Wireframes are great. No color no graphics. Make your client focus on the functionality of the site. Use only text necessary to convey the ideas on the wireframes. Above is a wireframe from a viral game on aryty.com.ph. This was created for both the account team and the engineers so functional specs were combined with flow.
At this stage you should also ask yourself if this is a good idea. I have come in on projects at the wireframe stage and realized that there was too much focus on cramming information into a site and not enough thought put into making it an interesting experience for a user.
While developing a few projects for Gorilla Mobile I created a template PHP site structure that would allow me to develop and iterate sites quickly to test different flows. Its important to manage the time spent refining a site before you know what flows convert to users. In some cases there were sites that simply did not perform well enough to continue development. Usually sites that seem simple still require back end and database development, as well as customer service access and all that little behind the scenes stuff.
Having a coding system allows me to blur the lines between front end graphic design and coding. If the site works there is always time to go back and refine the design. Its not a great idea to spend 100K on a great looking site that no one wants to use.
The never ending project. Every website I launch is a learning experience. What are users going to do with it. What do they like, what don’t they like and what gets ignored. All these things are really impossible to predict before launch, but I have gotten pretty good at guessing.
Before launching be sure everything is in place. What emails are needed, can you handle sending them, does customer service know what your about to do, hows your server holding up, is a site tracking tool installed and set up with goals, are you ready for hackers?