Unlike the goddess Venus, web sites do not spring fully formed from the sea. Website development projects involve a complex interaction of people; they are an ultimately, and highly, human endeavor that is undertaken as a team effort and involves various skill-sets and areas of expertise. Teams vary in size. Depending on the size of the engagement there can be as few as 2 people needed to build a site, or there could be 300. Who is on the team depends on the project’s complexity, it’s timeline and, budget.
While we have been, and are, members of large teams, the majority of our projects call for smaller, more nimble teams of 3-5 people. Regardless of size, working as a team is key, and every every site development project has similar inflection points where decisions must be made. It may not seem like it from the outside, or at the start of the project, but site development can be emotional and it can be tricky. Site Development forces clients to really look at their business and define it in a very public way.
It is important to remember that your site is not forever. It will represent you visually, functionally and in written form (though words can be changed easily enough) for probably 3-5 years. This post in the “so you want a website?” series will focus on the team members that we can and do work with on sites for our clients.* Before beginning an engagement, and seeing a proposal, it is often useful to understand who will be working on your site. While each of these players is important, the most important member of the team is the client, and I will explain why this is so, and what is expected of the client.
The planner — in our case Nancy — is the voice of the consumer. She is also, very often the voice of the internal stakeholders as well — who are certainly an audience for the site. We always conduct interviews with stakeholders to understand the company culture, its goals, its audiences, and business objectives. Once we’ve got that understanding we speak to actual customers, and other external users of the site (if possible). We then synthesize these learnings and use them to help us make decisions during the design and development process.
The Information Architect, or IA, is, in some ways similar to a planner in that both have the user in mind and balance user needs with business goals. The IA however has different outputs than the planner. The IA creates site maps — how the site pages fit together — wire frames — how information is presented on a page — and user flows — how a user uses the site and moves around it. The work of the IA provides the structural underpinnings of the web design project.
The designer is often the most popular person on the project because they are associated with the part of the project that’s most fun: visual design, or how the site looks. They can work from either an existing style guide or create an entriely new brand depending on the scope of a project. A designer is responsible for finding a design solution to the inputs that com from the strategy and IA phases — keeping in mind the technical limitations or possibilities of the project. All clients want to get to design, but design is one part of the overall process. Designers work closely with the planners and IAs to create a beautiful, strategically and business-goal focused design.
This is a long post, please check out part two
*Not all of our projects involve all of these people, nor do we expect the customer to buy all of these services. We tailor our process to fit budget, and the scope of the project.