Be it designing website from scratch or redesigning your existing one, you want to turn your numbers around. In website redesign, what first comes to mind is how the website design needs to change. Your focus may be on branding, functionality, content, or navigation. What is often neglected, however, is what the web design process will look like.
The iterative website design maximizes usability.
What we call website design often refers to the overall look and layout. However, website design elements that promote usability are much more extensive, encompassing many elements.
Think of your favorite websites and what makes them enjoyable. Most likely, you quickly learned how to use the site (and remembered how to use the site at a later date). You like the overall look and the language is clear, and can move seamlessly throughout the site and find what you need. You don’t have to click too many times, scroll endlessly, or face too many other annoyances. Finally, you don’t waste your time by experiencing 404 messages, broken links, or crashes.
These are all user-friendly characteristics that make you stay on the site longer and return more frequently than sites with a poor user interface (UI). That’s the aim of the iterative website design process.
Getting into the nitty-gritty, there are a several UI elements that all contribute to a positive experience. These include:
- Input Controls: interactive elements, such as buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, and text fields
- Navigation Elements: Components to access options, such as navbars, menus, pagination, sliders, search field, tags, and icons
- Informational Components: User notifications, such as tooltips, progress bars, notifications, and message boxes
- Design Layout: Page “template” elements applied consistently to website pages, such as grids, layouts, and columns
How Does Iterative Design Work?
Does planning for change sound sensible? If so, here are some tips before you start the design process by hiring a website design agency. Define your agency and client teams, their respective responsibilities, and who makes the final decisions. No one should be a passive onlooker; encourage their participation at all stages. Once you have your team in place, you’re ready to roll.
Iterative design can be broken down into six basic steps that form a continuous loop of “iterations”:
- Research, Ideate, and Plan:
Conduct research that helps you understand the user and anticipate how they will use the site. Explore the problems of your current website design and possible resolutions. This step should involve open participation about what the site should include, how to organize it, what should it look like, and other usability elements. Then start project planning—looking at a realistic timeframe, resources needed, responsibilities, and workflow.
- Design and Build:
Evaluate your ideas from step 1, identify top options for layout, navigation, and functionality. Go through this process until there’s a decision to move forward. Don’t button things up too much—leave room for modification. This is a critical measure to nail an iterative design.
Most of the web design agencies work on the homepage first because it incorporates so many elements. It will also provide a foundation for inside pages. Before you go too far with layout, content, and development, create a usability wireframe. Think of it as a blueprint that focuses on scope, structure, hierarchy of information, functionality, information priorities, and some visual design elements. The more exact you can get at this stage, the easier the next step (prototyping) will be.
- Prototype and Testing of the website design:
This step takes your wireframe further, going deeper than the basic structure, content, and layout ideas. The goal at this point is to provide a truer representation of what the interface looks like to the user. The graphic designer will create more realistic page mockups that often include nav menus, hero images, footers, and key images. Content is being created and finalized. In the beginning, the prototype may be static. However, at some point developer will start putting content and interactive elements into place. Testing will begin.
Again, try to get the wireframe in good shape before prototyping—at which point it will take more development time to make changes.
- Analysis and Review:
The navigational and functional elements are ready, graphic design is complete, and content is in place. This is the stage before launch, so it’s time to dig deep. Double-check and test for completeness, functionality, content, and other usability elements of the website design. Once the site functions properly, a non-biased focus group can provide feedback before launch. Otherwise, you can get feedback from users and site metrics post-launch.
- Launch & Next Iteration:
The developer and team will complete any final testing and get ready for launch! Once it’s launched, collect all evaluation and feedback you can to make refinements in the next iteration. Next, the client-agency team returns to steps 1 for a second “iteration”…and so on, in a loop of continuous improvement.
Best Practices for Iterative Design
As with any process, there are best practices that will make things smoother and will deliver better results. Here are key elements to build into the process:
- Focus on the user: Zealously focus on the user’s needs, intent, and anticipated behaviors.
- Communicate and Collaborate: Be transparent and inclusive, with regular team discussions about analysis results, feedback, and recommendations. Also, let developers know about problems that require immediate resolutions as soon as possible.
- Keep the interface simple. Avoid unnecessary elements in the website design. Broadly put, keep it uncluttered, and use clear language.
- Be Consistent. For branding, usability, and an efficient website design process, be consistent in all interface elements—including items like buttons, colors and fonts, and page structure.
- Use typographic hierarchy. Make it easier for users to read and scan (and help SEO) by being consistent with fonts, h1 and h2 headers, and other hierarchical elements.
- Conduct regular testing: Test functionality and user interface elements regularly to spot any changes that must be made immediately and to note potential modifications for the next iteration. If you are not techy enough to conduct testing, get in touch with the web design expert.
- Adhere to project scope: With so many ideas from so many people, it’s easy to get “scope creep. In your project estimate, specify time frame, cost, scale, and technology constraints. Let clients know as soon as possible if an enhancement will add to the project’s cost or delay the launch date.
- Conduct ongoing testing Use iterative testing to uncover where usability work, where problems are, resolutions, and other recommendations.
Takeaways about Website Iterative Design
“Iterative design” for websites may look somewhat different from one company to any other. The common element is to build change into the process and collaborate at all stages. The result is a happier team, better results, and a more positive user experience.
If you want to design a website that can adapt to change, call on a professional web design agency that can lead you in the iterative website design process.