Slowly but surely: why incremental web design is the best approach
When I talk to a client about their new website, invariably there are elements of a design project which are unclear. They know what their business does and perhaps the proud history and achievements. Yet, things tend to get a little fuzzier when we discuss what they are going to do in the future. Perhaps it’s a new product that’s still in development or a feature they want to add to the site (such as a News section) that requires an ongoing member of staff to maintain. Invariably this relatively minor issue tends to hold everything up. To break the impasse, I usually suggest we hold back and add it later. Because, why not? It has the advantage of streamlining the project, making it more manageable in the short term. Plus, adding in additional features later allows for organic growth. Rather than a compromise, I like to think of this as ‘incremental web design’. You get the full project, but in a planned, gradual way.
Taking our own medicine
Of course it’s easy to talk the talk, but try running a business that delivers website design – and actually walking the walk yourself. It's all well and good to talk to clients about updating their site regularly but it's not quiteso easy to take a dose of your own medicine.
It’s in this spirit that we’ve just completed a series of design improvements to our own site. It’s certainly simpler than starting from scratch. I confess that the thought of revamping the entire site and recreating all the content fills me with a mortal dread. So when we are talking to clients and they tell us that’s exactly how they feel, I am all-too sympathetic to that emotion. But this is where software can prove handy. Using tech to help out by updating our CSS (cascading style sheets) this 'incremental web design' approach can involve new site-wide creative decisions as well as updating content.
Working ‘back to front’ has more impact
For this re-work of our site we decided to work from back to front. Rather than spend days doing some splashy new front page, our thought was to focus on the neglected but business-defining pages that talk about our work and how we do it. We give our creative approach to clients a great deal of thought – it makes sense that these pages catch up with our most recent thinking.
Words matter, as well as their presentation.
For instance, I am not a fan of corporate jargon or anachronisms. For me, this means avoiding using terms that aren't clear. Guess what – ‘graphic designer’ is among them. Why? Because that term can cause more confusion than helpful explanation. Does a graphic designer... paint? draw? use scissors? I think explaining that we offer 'great print design' is much clearer.
Again this is a case of taking our own advice – I often find myself telling clients that just because they understand what their business does, it doesn't mean everyone else does. Nail things down to specifics and put yourself in the position of the reader. As an example – saying ‘we design and build websites, usually working with our clients to create all the copy and visuals’explains things far more clearly than ‘web design’.
So what have we done?
In addition to the new About Us splash page with a new design focussing on our core offerings as a business and past achievements, we’ve smartened up the Contact page (with a more elegant, streamlined form) and added a newly-designed Testimonials page that links to each of the projects to which the kind words of our clients refer.
We've also taken a look at the project pages.
It’s this last, relatively simple-sounding update that has had the biggest impact from my perspective. Of the layout changes we've made, I particularly like the way the new design has shifted the content up. There's more detail, sooner, so it’s much clearer what you’re looking at from the minute you land on the page.
As I have prepared these 'portfolio pages', I’ve taken a great deal of trouble to use the most striking photographs as 'lead images' to sum up the client or project. With this design update, I feel these shots have finally ‘had their moment’. Without actually changing any of the content, the new layout means the pages feel more considered and impactful - surely the most satisfying kind of update.
Apply the ‘incremental web design’ approach to your business
There's that old adage about never having a chance to make a good first impression.
With these changes our aim is to ensure our work has a much stronger impact right from the minute a potential client arrives. This has been achieved with great thought and creativity, but without a monumental investment in time which takes us away from client work.
Let me know what you think (or if you're interested in working with us) – drop me a line.