Healthy web design and development projects typically include the following characteristics:
Keeping the focus on content
A website is simply a delivery vehicle for great content. Users come to your website seeking information, or occasionally inspiration, and those goals are achieved with great writing supported by great multimedia (photography, video, etc).
If you want to have a great website, focus on creating great content - the design, development, and bells and whistles do nothing but support great content. It’s easy to fixate on design ideas or creative approaches, but all the creativity in the world is useless unless the website user finds it helpful.
Avoiding the comparison trap
Benchmarking is a helpful exercise to understand your market, and exploring forms of creative expression often pushes tired thinking to new heights. We encourage our clients to recommend sources of inspiration as we begin new website design projects.
That being said… there is nothing that will derail a project quite like fixating on another website with the mindset of “just build me exactly what I see here.” Seeking inspiration is healthy, but copycat approaches typically crash and burn. Why?
- Different types of websites
- Different audiences
- Different purposes
- Different design languages
- Different content strategy
- Different forms of content
Comparisons, benchmarks, and inspiration are helpful to stoke creativity thinking during the outset of a project, but copycat approaches are almost never realistic.
Resisting pixel-perfect expectations
Every website we build is fully responsive. They work great on wide screens, tablets, phones, and everything in between. As a result, the layouts, font sizes, and other design variables look slightly different to every person on their respective devices.
When presenting creative work to our clients, it’s important to establish this understanding. Comps, mockups, style tiles, wireframes, and other outputs of the design process help the user understand the direction we’re headed, but never represent an exact picture.
Identifying decision makers
We love our committees in higher education! And for all the value they bring, they make building a website extremely difficult. Without clear leadership and identified decision makers, website projects fail.
If you have a high-profile website that requires the input of multiple parties, we recommend forming a small committee that can operate as a sounding board at key milestones throughout the project. However, a single decision maker should be trusted throughout the project to carry forward the wishes of the committee. Each project involves too many small decisions to be managed by a group.
Imagine this scenario: you’re helping an organization with their website project, and Person A responds to your request for design feedback. Immediately following, Person B responds with a completely contradictory answer. It’s obvious that Person A and Person B aren’t on the same page.
Every successful web project includes a single communicator on the client side communicating with a single communicator on the web team. This eliminates confusion and streamlines the project management process. All parties are happier for it.