Design in Time

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There’s something very interesting about design that’s very unique to software development, and that is its subjectiveness.  The interesting thing about graphics is that beauty is really in the eye of the beholder.  What one person may think is amazing, another may think is okay.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but it can become an issue when developing an application.  Why?  Because it’s hard to figure out what is in the mind of your customer, and therefore it is hard to give them just what they want without having to make a million changes during the implementation phase.  Now how can you make sure that the customer gets what they desire, but that you still finish the project in good time.  Let’s look at a few very important things to keep in mind in order to finish your designs in time.

1.  Ask! Ask! Ask! – I’d say that the most important thing to do when trying to come up with the design for a customer’s application is to ask them enough questions to gather a good idea of what they want the application to look like.  When a customer explains an application the first time, very rarely will you have enough to build a mock up.  But you have to remember, often times, a mock up is the first thing that a customer wants to see.  So how can you make sure that you have enough information after the first few conversations, preferably the first.  Ask questions like these?

  • What style best represents this company?
  • What conclusion about your company do you want people to come to after viewing this application/website?
  • What application/website do you feel has the most similar feel to the application that you want built?
  • What do you want the overall feel or atmosphere of your website to be?

2.  Mock it up – The previous step will give you a general idea of where to start. Once you have a starting point, you can actually do a few quick and simple mock ups.  Make them not too specific, and don’t spend too much time on them.  You can do this in black and white.  The purpose of this mock up is just to get the ball rolling.  Chances are the finished product won’t look anything like the initial mock ups, but it will give the client some direction to go in.

3.  Consult with the customer – This step is extremely important.  This is where you speak with the customer, and you really start to get the full idea of what the end product will look like.  The customer will most likely have a million changes that he wants.  It’s very important that you write down each and every change that they want.  Remember though, at this point you haven’t actually started building out the actual UI.  You’re still doing all mock ups using some sort of an illustrator.  Remember, DON’T ACTUALLY START IMPLEMENTATION YET.

4.  Make the changes – Make every single change that the customer asks you for.  Make sure that the mock up is beautiful and looks almost like a finished product.  Now show this to the customer.  If the customer wants changes, make sure you make the changes only to the mock up.  At this point still do not actually start implementing the UI.

5.  Finalize the mock up – Once you’ve got the actual mock up looking just right, ensure that the customer wants no more changes whatsoever.  Make it known to the customer, that this is exactly how the end product will look.  Once the customer has agreed, and he is fully aware that after this there will be absolutely no more changes, start implementing.  It’s important that the customer understands that there are to be no more changes because making changes to UI once you’ve begun implementation is a real drag and slows things down tremendously.

6.  Start implementing – Now that you’re done with the mock up.  Implement the UI.  

That was simple, wasn’t it?  It’s important that you have definite steps with something like UI, because otherwise you will be working on it forever, and both you and the customer are bound to get irritated.  So don’t forget these six simple steps and you’ll have your DESIGN IN TIME.

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