22nd March, 2010

Process Toolbox, part nine: Narrative

At last, we reach the final transcript from The Process Toolbox presentation. Over the previous eight posts, we’ve looked at backbone, collaboration, audience, methodology, roadmap, creativity, convention, and prototyping. To conclude, we’ll look at a method for pooling all of this together to reduce noise and leave only the finest signals to present a project narrative - a single, focused design path.

Following a direction to reach our goal

If everything has gone to plan throughout the process, then we’ll have arrived at a superbly functional system with strong visual design, arrived at in an iterative manner.

Many of you will agree that the days of offering up three or four polished designs are long gone, and frankly a waste of time. We can save money and work smarter here.

We should educate our clients that a website will be designed along a specific path. Our research and processes equip us to follow a certain direction, offering up rough sketches, basic wireframes, more complex wireframes, a prototype and so on. We can then do some colouring in as we evolve the suggested design. All the way through, we’re exploring a single, focused design path.

With a solid understanding of the intended audience, and as a result of a well-honed process, we should be confident enough to explore a single path and ultimately result in a successful, stunning product.

Deliverables sheets

I like to give a client a sheet linked to Basecamp that acts as an ongoing Table of Contents for the process. It’s a one-stop-shop for actual deliverables. The noise is all in Basecamp, whereas here what we have just the real signals; all are deliverables -  pure output.

Move through each batch one-by-one and the process is clear. There is a narrative - a journey. The path page is proof of concept - it backs up all the promises we made to the client at the beginning.

The deliverables the sheet links to (sitemaps, wireframes, batches of comps or prototype files, experiments) are all in chronological order. There is a progression - a path. It is one single focused design path, and acts as a repeatable framework for future releases.

This is another tool I couldn’t be without. It’s just a few HTML files and links to the deliverables uploaded, but this works very hard and provides a constant focus throughout the project cycle.

Conclusion

Over this and the other eight posts, I’ve outlined a number of tools and methods that you can twist even further, and mix with your own process. Along the way, we’ve explored tools that help create empathy, simplicity, flexibility, creativity, quality and relevancy.

So, you might be a designer, a developer, a creative director; a freelancer, or part of a team. Maybe you represent a communications team, or are looking to commission a major web project. Whatever your stake in the web, I’d hope that some of the ideas that I have presented give you some measurable value, and fresh ideas to take back to your colleagues and assist with devising your own flexible tools.

Most of the budgets we work with need to cover our responsible processes. These figures are often called into question by potential clients who might not initially appreciate the inherent value. Every time we explore and illustrate the merits of a good process we hopefully help those new to web commissioning understand why its so valuable.

And with that, I’m closing my toolbox.

Note: Slides designed by Gregory Wood.

Full series…

This article was originally posted on Erskine Labs, September 2009.

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