While every project is unique, our Web site creation process is generally ordered along three distinct stages: information architecture, site design and site development.
METHODS: Information Architecture
Information Architecture is essentially the process by which a concept is fleshed out and defined. If one were to view the final Web site as a dream vacation, information architecture would be akin to obtaining a passport, planning the itinerary and choosing plane-train-or-automobile. It is distinct from choosing which plane-train-or-automobile – that would be the back-end (development) process – or what to wear on the wonderful trip – that would be the front-end (design) process.
We use a five stage system to guide our clients through the decisions and deliberations involved in the information architecture phase:
- Define the goals of the site
- Define the audience of the site
- Define the desired user experience
- Define the site content and functional requirements
- Define the site structure (data and navigation)
Each point in this process is discussed and documented, and clients are advised on design/development issues (e.g., user interface, user experience, platforms, etc.) as appropriate. At the end of step five, a complete wireframe of the Web site is produced to serve as a reference point for the client and for the next step in site creation: design.
As theorized by game developer Dino Dini, the design process can be defined as “the management of constraints.” This is especially true with Web design, as accessibility, visibility, usability and feedback are not identical across platforms: users experience different environments depending upon screen resolution, monitor size and color gamut, browser choice, connection speed and so on.
During the design phase, we work with our clients to define site elements such as color palette, typeface selection, mise-en-page and navigation. These elements will be reflective of the client’s philosophy and culture and will be tailored to mesh with existing branding and design (such as print collateral). Design will be user-centric.
The client will be presented with comps throughout the design process, culminating in a digital mock-up of the site for final discussion and approval.
Development, of course, is the final step in the process: turning the site architecture and design into a usable product. Preliminarily, development involves anticipating, addressing and resolving hosting issues, security issues, compliance issues and server platform selection. As the project progresses, development also involves semantic markup, stylesheet (CSS) composition, application coding and site testing.