3. Plan & Structure
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With the research complete we have a much better understanding and context of what we are going to be creating and producing. A great saying that we repeat with staff and clients is "Fail to plan, plan to fail”. It couldn't be more true. In a design project, the more time you spend planning and researching is in direct correlation to the success of the project. This isn't some nice to have, a “do a little of” activity. In fact, the main differentiator with a small business is understanding your customers better than your competitors understand their customers. That is a game-changer right there.
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The goals of the website need to be explicitly set. With our experience in web projects. Everyone then knows what the success of the project is based on. Getting 60 % more enquiries by this time next year is a good example of a goal. With the goals set - all parties can align and come together to reach that goal. It's not some woolly target created in a flash of intuition. It's from our experience with websites, combined with your own expert knowledge of your business.
Pen & Paper
We are very much advocates of pen and paper when it comes to initial ideas of what needs to be on the site and with rough functionality. Being very quick to get something down and to which others can discuss is a huge plus point of the pen-and-paper approach. It's much quicker to get thoughts out there with pen and paper than going into a design package like Adobe Xd, PhotoShop or Figma. Pen and paper are of course very low cost and can be thrown away at will.
From pen and paper, it's on to wireframes. Wireframes give a strong idea of the structure and functionality of the site but are devoid of any colour, type or layout. They are like a skeleton feature set. These rough pages can be linked together and show how the live site would be navigated and what could be on each individual template. Not every single page needs to be wireframed with rough content. You wouldn't for instance wireframe each individual 150 blog posts. In most cases, you would however have a blog homepage, a category page and a single blog post wireframe page which would represent those 150 pages. It must be stressed that wireframes have no design to them, and are there for discussion to clarify the feature and functionality of the to-be-created website.
IA is all about structuring content so it can be found easily. Imagine you are on a weekend break in a city you have never been to before. You are likely to resort to a map and the signs on the streets to navigate where you want to go. Without these sing posts, you would be completely lost. Think of IA on a website like that. Without clear labels, headings and structure people would struggle to find anything they want on the site.