Brett Monson
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Brett Monson

Create a Strategy Before Executing Your Design

A couple of years ago, as a student starting out in the field of Interaction Design, there was a particular class that really stood out to me. At the beginning of the semester, we were broken up into separate groups and told that we would be completing a service learning project that involved finding a non-profit website and improving it. I figured this meant that we would simply be taking something that was ‘ugly’ and making it look ‘pretty’! Well, it was much more than that, and in fact, we only barely scratched the surface when it came to the final composition phases. Little did I know at the time, there is a lot of prep work that needs to be done before you can jump into any part of the design phase. For the majority of the semester, we focused more on the strategy that must be followed before we could begin to make the website look ‘pretty’.

Strategy

Client Interview

First and foremost, we needed to talk to the client. This is probably a ‘duh’ moment for any designer, however, being a student, it’s not too often your given the opportunity to work with a client from the real world. The client we worked with was from a foundation called ‘Wild Wonders’– a non-profit organization that rehabilitates injured animals.

The interview process was probably the most valuable step that we took. It allowed us to comb over the old website with the client and focus on what was working and what needed to be improved. Most importantly, it gave us an idea of the problem or need that the new design would address.

Creating Personas

To better understand the problem the new website would be addressing, we needed to first understand the target audience and specifically what solutions to put in place that would address user needs. To accomplish this, we created a persona for each type of user we thought would be visiting the site. Included in each persona would be a basic profile, the potential goal that each user would accomplish by visiting the site, and a scenario in which they would seek the website out.

By defining the target audience through the use of personas, we could then more confidently move onto the next stage of planning.

Defining the Scope

After the persona phase, we created a document that outlined the Scope of the website that involved what requirements we needed to fulfill in the new design such as:

Content/Data — This is where we really focused on what content needed to be included in the new design. For example, the old site was very text heavy and lacked a gallery where the animals could be showcased. Included in the table, we defined the purpose of the image gallery, who would provide the content, how often it would be updated, and the main audience it would be targeted towards. This is the protocol we followed for each of the content/data requirements.

Functional Requirements — Here we would outline the most important functions that needed to be included in the new design as well assigning a priority to each, from high to low.

Constraints —We had to consider what limitations the client would be facing before building the new site. As one example, the client was paying hosting fees that only allowed for a total of 15 pages to be active, and anything over that number would be outside of the budget. This would certainly restrict the amount of new content we could include in the new design.

Final Planning Stage

Although our sitemap was very simple, it forced us to consider how we wanted the site to be structured based on the client needs and constraints we had established previously. It also addressed an issue with the old website that was difficult to navigate and failed to emphasize critical content such as a donation or contact page.

What I learned

After the sitemap, we completed wireframes for the new design and then finally a few mockups that would represent the finished site. However, for the majority of the class, we really focused our attention on the importance of implementing a strategy when taking on a new project. I hadn’t realized just how important it is to spend time planning and defining what key needs and problems should be addressed before jumping into the design phase. We could have just as easily jumped right into the surface composition phase with no plan, and spent the entire semester doing iterations. It is clear to me now that by spending more time strategy first, you can then better visualize the final product and how it will address the needs of the user.

Brett Monson is a student in the Digital Media program at Utah Valley University, Orem Utah, studying Interaction & Design. The following article relates to the final iBooks project in the DGM 2240 course and is representative of the skills learned.

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Brett Monson

Brett Monson

Currently studying in the field of Interaction/Product Design. Collaborated on projects that include web apps, web pages, and digital publications.

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