Website design

Potential WebDev Project Glitches To Watch Out For

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 02/25/2021 - 11:00
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Potential WebDev Project Glitches To Watch Out For

There are inherent technical minefields in every site dev project, but you may also have to deal with industry- or company-specific difficulties. These may include (but alas, are not limited to): 

  • Wonky Web browsers – It’s nearly impossible to create a site that will appear consistent across all of them  

  • Previous web developers, third-party IT people or uncooperative domain name registrars who’ve lost their clients to you, and spitefully cause a difficult transition 

  • Clients who believe the website you built on a CMS comes with free lifetime CMS training or telephone support from you. Boundaries (made concrete in the work agreement) are your friends. 

  • Clients whose staff, tapped to be their ongoing web maintenance people, are not the least bit tech-savvy. 

  • Clients who want you to build them a blog, but don’t want to resource someone to write anything for it. You need to make them aware of this ongoing need. 

  • Clients who don’t supply content on time…or at all; then don’t turn around draft reviews in time, but still want the website launched on schedule. 

Though we hope it doesn’t happen this way, all these issues and more are ones you must be prepared to deal with. Be very clear about your policy on these types of issues before the project begins. 

 

Maintenance & Backups – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 12

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 02/18/2021 - 15:23
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Maintenance & Backups – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like

Tie up loose ends by ensuring that your good work will be properly maintained by the client (or your firm, or a contracted IT vendor, as the case may be).

Maintenance & Optimization 

  • If the client discovers that part of the site isn’t working, you need to fix it as quickly as possible. Original planning and budgeting needs to provide for this possibility, as well as for some amount of ongoing feature tweaks. 
  • One important (yet often overlooked) developer duty is to provide the functionality for a continual feedback loop with your client’s internal back-end users. Be prepared to answer questions such as, “I want to post a video, how do we do that?”
  • Consult Website Pulse's best practices to establish your own.

Back-End Management 

  • Another critical functionality is allowing new site owners to see all their content and make any necessary changes. 
  • This should be planned for when choosing the site CMS, according to the particular needs of the client, and the idiosyncrasies of its staff.
  • Try to anticipate these needs when creating training documentation, but don’t view questions outside of that coverage as annoyances. View them as learning situations for creation of the next site documentation, and as opportunities to provide a higher level of billable service.

Launch – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 11

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 02/11/2021 - 16:43
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Webdev project

Once you’re ready to publicly launch the new site, be sure that beforehand, you’ve communicated to clients that, by their nature, websites are never “finished.” Remind them that this is a good thing: It makes a site more sustainable because it grows with their organization; and changes are usually less costly than print and broadcast.

The whole point of a website is that it’s not static, but a living entity. Again, emphasize the positive: Fresh content is bait for web spiders to crawl their sites, potentially bumping their rankings.

Now is the time to pay attention to the myriad tiny development details that will leave the best client impression.

Then it’s the Marketing department’s turn to have done their thing:

  • scheduling live or online launch events to tout the new Web presence
  • generating and distributing press releases (and posting them on the site's newsroom)
  • finding creative ways to tie in the site launch to timely current events

Though launch parties are always fun, they’re not only costly, they’re also bad form in the era of COVID, so use your imagination in creating fresh new approaches to launch announcements.

Testing, Round 2 – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 10

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 02/04/2021 - 18:19
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Web Dev Testing Round 2

The Final Countdown
Your initial site go-live will be a “soft launch,” known only to those working on the project. First-round testing was for internal users to give the site a first run-through. But now, developers have seen the site too many times, and fresh eyes are needed. 

Unleash the Gremlins!
Second-round testing is done by those who might actually use the site “in the wild.” You want to unleash the gremlins before the general public has access. As military generals have always known: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” People will find ways to break stuff. Let them do it before it really matters. This is the last stress test before the paying client sees it, and—more importantly—sees potential customers use it.

How To Do It
If you haven't run usability testing before, or you have but found it to be a vague process without actionable outcomes, you need a firm process in place. There are many places to find established processes, but one we recommend is Just In Mind. Just over a year ago, they published their Complete Guide to User Testing, with a dozen chapters of in-depth suggestions to address and set up all facets of usability testing. 

Testing & Going Live – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 7

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 01/14/2021 - 13:48
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WebDev testing and going live

Having moved through the initial creative and production processes, now’s the time to test your work in the real world.

Testing – Round 1

  • Often, testing is only done by site owners, but end users should be put in front of the site, too, before it’s considered launch-ready.
  • Behavioral testing is a huge part of this practice: “If I click this, that should happen.”
  • Behavior-driven Web development is becoming the norm, through practices such as BEHAT. This is an open source Behavior-Driven Development framework for PHP. It’s a tool to support you in delivering software that matters, through continuous communication, deliberate discovery and test-automation. It’s essentially a series of “if-then” scenarios.

Review and Going Live

  • Only after your draft site is put through its paces against these tests should you allow the client to review it.
  • Either make requested revisions or explain to the client why the site should remain as is, then take the site live.

Graphic & UX Design – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 5

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 12/31/2020 - 13:41
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WebDev Projects

The tenets of good user design fill at least a dozen books, and there will be more. This discipline grows in importance as retail moves more and more online. The learning curve was already picking up speed, but since the rise of the coronavirus and COVID-19, that speed has grown exponentially. We must grow with it, if we are to keep ahead of the very real needs of site users.

  • Graphic design is critical to every item seen by the site visitor, from the overall page template, fonts and color scheme to the look of buttons and other repeating elements. The person responsible for this should have a good balance of experience and knowledge in both 2D design and how that applies to an interactive, virtual experience.
  • User Experience (UX) design applies to everything from micro-interactions to the whole customer success journey. You test it by walking through the actual process a site visitor must go through. Then ask yourself: How hard was it to do what the fictional user wanted to do? How many hoops do you have to jump through? Could any of them be eliminated or made simpler? Do systems collaborate with each other smoothly?

Quoting & Planning – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 2

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 12/10/2020 - 15:08
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Quote and Planning

Quoting & Planning – What WebDev Projects Really Look Like, Part 2
After you've gotten through the Discovery process to find out what your objectives should really be for a webdev project, next steps include:

Quote Submission

  • Your "quote" should actually be more of an estimate. We're all familiar with the concept of "scope creep" and—as with any act of creation—it rarely ends up being exactly what we anticipate. Allow yourself flexibility to compensate for this next point:
  • Allocate enough time and money for concepting and ideating about UX and testing, and reworking things according to what you find out during testing.
  • With any quote, you are setting client expectations. Write it with the thought in mind that you will need to stick to whatever promises you express or imply, so leave room to over-deliver.
  • Check out Muffin Group's great web design suggestions and quotation templates to figure out the best way to price your services.

Planning

  • If you're going to put the project in front of end users and act on feedback (and hopefully you are), you need to plan for the time and money to do this. All sustainable webdev projects are iterative.

This takes us up to the start of creative production work, which we'll cover in our next post.

Defining Users for Good UX Design Requires Good Research

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 11/19/2020 - 15:48
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Define Users

In our last post, we discussed the need to recognize that there are two real users we’re designing for in a webdev project: Internal Content Editors and External End Users. 

Web developers must serve each of these user sets, so the users must be defined in as much detail as possible, to set up the needs and expectations of each, which we will use as our design requirements. We call this the Discovery process. 

External Users – End Users/Customers

The site's external end users may belong to a monolithic group, but more likely, they will belong to several subsets, differentiated in terms relevant to the client/site owner’s business or purpose. Your marketing department should research and create a Customer Profile for each subset of typical customers.

  • These profiles should be generated using known demographic information as much as possible. Relevant demographics will change according to client needs.

  • Other salient points about them will have to remain conjecture, until use of the new site reveals observable data about external users.

  • When building the project timeline, the webdev project manager should be tapped to follow up on this information, which should help determine anticipated needs and desires for the website's ongoing features and functionality. This way, all future updates are based on actual feedback.

Internal Users – Content Editors

In reality, the Internal User is the first one to consider, because the content editor will be the first one to use the site before actual customers do. They will be inputting and updating text, images and media before the customer ever sees it, so they are key to the success of the site.

  • Because there can be several levels of internal users, each should be represented by a Persona Story, also created by your Marketing department.
  • A Persona Story is a pseudo-personality profile and needs assessment that will help determine the features and functionalities needed on the site.  

We’ll cover the questions used to build the Persona Story in our next post.

Good UX Design Starts With Defining Users

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 11/11/2020 - 22:09
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define for users

When we start a webdev project, good UX design must be foremost in our minds from the beginning. And good UX design begins with empathy: We must design the entire user experience to fit the type of person who will be using it most. This determines who we’re really working for. The client may be paying for your time and expertise, but the real “boss” — the one driving our decisions and choice s— is the user. So it’s necessary to define our actual user base. 

For any website, there are actually two main types of users:

  1. External (Customers/End users)

  2. Internal (Content Editors)

Every web designer knows of and thinks about the first category, the end user. But if we’re going to be designing for successful, long-life websites, we need to consider the fact that all such sites will be continually updated at least with content, if not functionality. That means someone inside the client’s organization, or at least someone contracted by them, will also be using the site from the back end.

Web developers need to build interfaces to function well, for visual attractiveness, and clean coding. They must serve each of these user sets, so the users must be defined in as much detail as possible, to set up expectations. We’ll discuss specifics in our next post.

WebDev 101 – Human-Centered Design, Part 1

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 10/28/2020 - 15:51
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WebDev 101 – Human-Centered Design, Part 1

At the heart of effective User Experience (UX) Design, which is critical to the creation of successful websites, is Human-Centered Design. This is the term for the expression of the oldest and most central design rule in website development: Form must follow function (FFF).  

In other words, you start with the purpose of the thing you’re designing — What is it supposed to do, why, and who’s going to be using it? — and make sure that every decision you make during its design is based on the answers to those questions. The form of what you're creating must follow the function it is supposed to serve. 

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Actually, not so much. Many folks approach a design project with preconceived notions or they see it as an opportunity to try some new technique or methodology they’ve heard about, whether or not it serves the purpose of the project.  

That’s why the FFF rule is so critical: It serves as a strong guiding influence on decision-making the whole way through the webdev project. Some will see this as a constraint to their creativity, but in reality, it’s a way to save all involved from going down innumerable rabbit holes that won't ultimately pay off.

In our next post, we'll look at the 3 basics of Human-Centered Design.