With my decision to focus on getting the Limulus Systems web app out, I’ve been trying to learn the basics of the website design process. I figure that if I want to talk to designers, it would help if I have some of the lingo right, so that I know my HTML from a hole in the ground. Knowing something about it would put me in a better position for talking to contract developers or potential programming partners, depending on which way we go. To learn more, I’ve been reading Above The Fold: Understanding the Principles of Successful Web Design by Brian Miller. The book is not by any means exhaustive, but is rather a review of overall principles of development for newbies like me. There’s no code in the book, it’s not about the hard work of actually building websites, just the process of going from idea to final product. There’s more to the process than I thought, so to get a feel for it, I developed a flow chart of what needed to be done. The chart shows design as a stepwise process, though this probably represents the ideal case, whereas the real thing will require more iteration back and forth between development steps. Like the book, the chart is not exhaustive, but shows the basic tasks and decisions needed:
As you can see, much of the chart is devoted to checking in with potential customers to see how we’re doing. There are two schools of thought about this. 37Signals’ Basecamp was apparently developed with minimal input from users, the idea being, if you develop a quality product, the users will come. You won’t get all the customers, all the time, because you can’t please everybody and shouldn’t try, but you will get enough to sustain the product. Just put out the product and see if it sticks, seems to be the mantra for them. On the other hand, there are those who would have you checking in with potential customers at every stage of the process, constantly refining your product and message (Steve Blank comes to mind). The idea here is that you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money developing a product that people may ultimately not want. Develop quickly and let the market decide or ask the market beforehand what it will accept; I can see both sides. The chart mostly reflects the latter view, though I suppose I will take a middle road between these possibilities, where I get customer input whenever I can, but ultimately make some of the decisions for the customer, knowing that they can be changed later as needed.
Missing from the chart are the jobs of talking to kit designers, marketing, social networking, and branding. I haven’t forgotten about those efforts; they will run in parallel to the design work. Don’t worry, there’s enough for everyone to do!
P.S. – This is my 101st blog post, can you believe it? It’s hard to imagine that anybody would follow these posts for all that time… oops, that’s right, I forgot, hardly anybody does. Well, congratulations to me and to my faithful reader!