3 Early Steps That Should Be Foundational For Any Project
Designing a website or an app is a lot like building a home — both need a solid foundation.
A project plan, research, and wireframes are the predominant steps to setting a solid foundation for a new website or app product. Without them, you could wind up with an end product that creates more problems than it solves.
It’s common to want to rush to the visual design of a new product. The updated look and feel can be the most exciting part. But a strong focus on the early stages of a project tends to yield the best results.
Here’s a look at the three steps that make up the foundation of any successful project:
1. Project Planning
I’ve seen some projects run amok from the start because they began without a clear outline of what needed to be accomplished and when.
Multiple parties from your team and the client’s team can be involved at different stages of the project. Therefore a project plan that conveys key deliverables and when they should be expected is a compass to keep everyone on the same path.
Aside from keeping everyone from the production team on track, this helps communicate to the client when they can expect items to review, and when they may need to supply their own necessary deliverables.
It can be dangerous to design or build something based off assumptions. If you allot the time for it, research on your user base or target market can significantly increase the value of your end product.
There are a handful of ways you can conduct research. You can do something as simple as browsing the web for additional information about your target market. Or you can do something as complex as recruiting participants for user interviews.
For this post, I’ll highlight a research method we commonly use at Creative2: analytics.
Analytics provide insight on how people use an existing website or app. And since we often work on redesigns of existing products, we’re lucky enough to have data analytics readily available.
With this type of research, we’re able to gain a better understanding of what types of website pages get the most traffic. Using that information, we assess what really works about those pages that users tend to gravitate toward. On the other hand, we can also use analytics to dive in to those pages that people aren’t exploring and diagnose why.
Regardless of what method works best for you and your team, you should take a moment early on in the process to reflect on the project needs and research what may work best for the agreed upon scope and timeline of your project.
3. Site Maps and Wireframes
Going back to the home construction analogy, site maps and wireframes represent the blueprint of a website or app design. Before everything starts to get dressed up with colors, graphics, and images you need to sort out the framework of where everything goes. That’s where sitemaps and wireframes come in handy.
A sitemap is similar to a planning step, but it’s an actual visual tool you can reference and use to set expectations. In short, a sitemap is a flow-chart style graphic that shows the existing pages on your website. It also conveys the hierarchy of pages, which helps in deciphering which are the most important and top-level pages for your navigation, and which subpages might live within another major section of your website.
Wireframes are the MVPs of a successful website or app design project. This step is one of the first times you begin to see ideas come together.
Different teams or agencies will produce wireframes with varying levels of detail. But essentially, you’re going to get a low-fidelity and grayscale (black and white) prototype to review. This prototype is meant to communicate what some of the key features of your website will be and the process for some key user flows.
One example might be the checkout process for a shopping app. A wireframe depicting how a user would check out, step by step, will help ensure that process is optimal.
Everyone wants to jump straight to the visual design stages that make them excited about projects. But it’s best if you try to work in some of the crucial steps mentioned above. The time put into planning, research, and site maps/wireframes is exponentially made up for in their value to completing a great project.