On Process: Design Last
At Notre Dame, I’ve tried out a slightly different process for a few of my smaller projects. These are just web redesign projects with, at most, 50-100 pages.
We designed last. We followed this order for the project:
1. Content assessment and I/A
2. Build site skeleton
3. Add content to site
6. Cleanup and launch.
You see, the key enhancement to this process was the second step: build site skeleton. By building a skeleton, it enabled the content folks to migrate content into the new site. It also allows them to interact with the information as they eventually would anyway. At first, I intended to simply create pages with XHTML and leave off the styles. But it’s so easy to toss together some basic CSS to make it look nicer that I ended up creating a temporary design anyway. Erin, the content lead, was very pleased that they could continue working during the design phase.
Once the designs were approved, we simply sliced images, wrote the CSS, and applied it to the site. Stages 4, 5, and 6 happened in a little under a week. It’s the fastest we’ve turned one of these projects around.
As I see it, this is similar to producing a wireframe before an actual design. You don’t need to get distracted by details too early in the process. By producing a site skeleton before the design, content and design folks can each move forward with their respective work.