Web App Design Basics

2011 Blog AvatarWith 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:

Web Design Flow Chart

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!

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11 Responses to Web App Design Basics

  1. Scyntist4merlynome says:

    "We're" still here and waiting for the baby's birth.

  2. Pavan Kalyan says:

    That's not bad article. definitely accept able. This post carry many useful matter. Hey, If you need any more useful information so let me know, I will give you useful information. Carry on…

    Web Designing in Bangalore

    • wjackman says:

      Yes, if I need any more help I will certainly let you know, though working with Project Ricochet is working well for now. Thanks.

  3. Walter says:

    Thanks Jackman for giving attention on writing educative specifications about web app design basics. This is so far a great read for me. There are plenty of things needed to learn about web designing and you gave just proper hints of those important basics.

  4. WWD says:

    Hi.. shouldn't you research first if there are potential customers (second yellow box) before researching if they like it (first yellow box)?

    • wjackman says:

      I see what you mean.. and yes, you're correct. It may be an issue of poor wording as much as anything else. What I meant to convey in the first yellow box is more along the lines of checking to see if the basic idea is appealing to anyone. If so, then you do the necessary research into features, cost structure, etc., via interviews to see if the idea holds up. Thanks for the attentive reading.

  5. There are a lot of factors required to understand about web developing and you provided just appropriate clues of those essential fundamentals. Thanks Jackman for providing interest on composing educative requirements about web app style fundamentals. This is so far an excellent study for me

  6. Pagemaster says:

    Wow, that's quite a chart you have there, and it's very comprehensive! The key thing in my opinion is to find out if the website achieves it's goal. Yes, it's important for visitors to like the site, and hopefully interact with it, but can anybody find the website? How many visitors do you need? Is the goal to produce a nice looking website or to get some enquiries? It's a brave company that only spends money on the website and then 'hopes' for some visitors?

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