Web projects are complicated and challenging. Developing some best practices around them is a goal for most of us in this industry. However, what is emerging from my panel on best practices in Web projects is that all of us approach Web projects in a different way, but we use many of the same techniques.
In Part 1, we asked about the information you need to start a Web project properly. In Part 2 we looked at gathering that information. In Part 3, we are going to discuss processes for collecting that information.
My panel includes:
- Alice Coleman, Information Architect
- Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist (@danieleizans)
- Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer (@mhogenmiller)
- Chris Moritz, Information Architect (@chrismoritz)
- Jeffrey Rum, Visual Designer (@jsrum)
- Randall Snare, Content Strategist (@randallsnare)
As always, you’ll find my takeaways at the bottom of the panelists’ answers. Thank you to my talented and fantastic panelists.
Do you have a set process at work for collecting that information, your own internal checklist or does each project require a certain customization of gathering and discovery?
Randall Snare, Content Strategist
Randall believes in a set process with flexibility built in:
I have processes galore and I force my team to use them at every step of the way. But what's important about these templates and processes is that you use them as a starting place. We customize them to the situation in almost every project, which is great, because it is very hard to innovate from a blank slate. Web content templates are a great example. They've grown bit by bit through each project, because web content is always unique.
I have a template for almost for every piece of communication a content resource will have with the project team and with the client. The reason for this is that there are many pieces of information we have to convey and it's easy to forget what they all are. It's like the Checklist Manifesto, the book I'm obsessed with by Atul Gawande. He implemented a checklist in hospitals that was simply a reminder of things to do when you're operating on someone, and that checklist has saved thousands of lives.
Jeff Rum, Visual Designer
Jeff has a checklist of questions he asks the client(s):
Yes, I have a set list of questions I ask a client, or I can send a questionnaire if there are a number of key stakeholders who need to provide input. Ultimately, the checklist becomes the blueprint for building the site through the discovery process. This way, we can pull it out if any questions come up as we move through the project.
Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer
Michael doesn’t have a set checklist, but he does like to revisit goals during the project:
I really don't have a set process other than making sure that I thoroughly understand whom I'm working with, how their business works and how we're going to use an online strategy to build or grow their business. Getting those fundamentals down at the beginning almost always illuminates a clear path ahead, and revisiting them at various stages in a project really helps to evaluate direction and measure progress.
Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist
Daniel is not a big believer in a linear or repeatable process:
I tend to operate under the “every project is absolutely different” rule. There are some projects that I won’t even conduct a content audit for or conduct heuristic review for. I’m of the personal belief that users and client needs dictate different processes and deliverables for content strategy. The various tactics and methods most content strategists have at their disposal are really just that -- tools. I don’t see content strategy as being an entirely repeatable process. Above all, content strategy is about making content better. Better content achieves business goals, user goals and has substance above everything else, and I just don’t see that happening in a linear fashion at all times.
That said, I always use business goals, user insights and publishing plans regardless of what I work on.
Chris Moritz, Information Architect
Chris also embraces creativity and flexibility:
No standard process, and I like it that way. Similar types of projects get similar methodologies, but budget, timing and client preference variables make an ISO-style process for discovery something that I’ve never seen, and doesn’t apply to the type of company I work for.
Alice Coleman, Information Architect
Alice understands that project plans change:
I have a standard process that works on most projects, but each project is unique. One of the characteristics of a good IA is to have a plan but be flexible if the plan needs to change.
Well, our panelists have a lot in common with Mike Tyson, who (in)famously said, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face.”
Web projects definitely require flexibility, patience and checking in with your client at different points to ensure you are on the right track. All of our panelists expressed a process with flexibility built in.
Join us next week as we ask our panelists about creating lists of deliverables, always a knotty subject.
Until then, don’t get punched in the face.