Now this is not a new concept, but I find the 4 D’s of web design are a great basis for looking at the process involved in any digital based project and can be applied to anything from a website to a mobile app.
Discovery: Requirements & Flat Plan
Collaboration. I find the best first step is to get everyone involved in the project in some way, shape or form into a room with a whiteboard and a marker. Begin by ensuring everyone is on the same page around the core of the idea then start discussing and drawing. Start by wireframing out the core components of the idea with boxes and arrows linking them all together to show the process flow. From my experience just going through the process of doing this will help the idea to become clearer as to how it all fits together. As a thought process, consider, what directs peoples awareness towards the idea, how do they experience it, what do they do to engage with it, how do they share it and what closes the loop and keeps them coming back either to stores or the experience itself.
Design: Wireframes & Design
After the general concept has been discussed and the requirements of the project has been agreed upon, the next step is to work on wireframes and design concepts. Wireframes have evolved over time and are becoming more and more visual, even interactive. There are a number of different pieces of software out there now which help to create and visualize wireframes, making them far quicker and easier to put together. Not only that but they can be done in a number of different ways from prototypes in keynote to grey box layouts. There is a fine line between visual and functional and how functional you need to make them.
Once the wireframes are put together, it’s time to look at the design. I find it best to visually design just the key elements with a few concept options at first to get the direction approved. Once this step is complete, it is then quick to go through and design each element of the approved wireframe with the approved design.
Development: Content, Front & Back End
The first step here is asset collection, it’s crucial for the team developing the product to have all the assets they require as soon as possible to keep the process going. In terms of back end, look to leverage previous projects for functionality to speed up development time and reduce costs.
Coming back to the concept of collaboration again, digital projects really require cross disciplinary teams. I’ve found this to be a real team process and not only just in terms of the digital team with front and back end development. You’ll often need creative direction and content input from across the agency also from, TVP, Photo Studio and Mac Ops. It’s all about finding the most efficient place to put the specific task.
In terms of signing off the development, look towards an iteratitve process. It’s simply not possible to present a first development stage that is perfect, so present a first build, second build, taking feedback and improving as you move towards the deadline.
Delivery: Testing, Launch & Post Launch
Before the project goes live, if the time allows, I definitely recommend user testing. It’s always surprising to see what the users will comment on and how they experience the journey. It can often be vastly different to what you imagine and some of the functionality that may seem logical through development may be shown to not be quite so.
Unlike traditional channels, once a digital project is live, it isn’ t the last you’ll see of it. Often there will be teething issues to resolve and you’ll need to keep an eye on tracking & feedback against KPIs. As a side note, look to bake in tracking and analysis features and consider hosting environment and how best to keep it running fast.
As a thought point to end on, perhaps good enough is actually good enough in the digital world. This process is not an exact science and it takes trial and error to really learn and push the boundaries. Being fast and agile like a tech start up really helps to drive this sort of work and unlike other mediums it really lends itself to being iterative.