Anyone who has managed the process of developing or redesigning a Web site of significant size has likely learned the hard way the complexities, pitfalls, and cost risk of such an undertaking. While many Web development firms have fantastic technical expertise, what sets the topnotch organizations apart is the ability to accurately manage the planning and development process. Web Redesign: Workflow That Works directly addresses this crucial area with a specific, proven process.
This brief but important book lays out a specific five-step strategy—called the Core Process—that can always be applied to the development of Web sites and fine-tuned to almost any type of project. Each step—defining the project, developing site structure, visual design and testing, production and QA, and launch and beyond--contains three related but distinct tracks. The text begins with a brief overview of each of the steps, then delves deeper into each with detailed explanations as well as specific forms and project-management strategies. This book does not cover back-end, server-side programming. Instead, it focuses primarily on the visual, conventional components of a Web site.
Authors Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler compiled this book in an attractive, easy-to-read format. This process guide uses numerous full-color screen shots to illustrate site examples, as well as plenty of site diagrams and sample forms. The book even has a companion Web site with downloadable forms in PDF format to put the Core Process into immediate action.
Step 1--Defining the Core Process: discovery, planning, and clarification
Step 2--Developing site structure: content-view, site-view, and page-view
Step 3--Visual design and testing: creating, confirming, and handing off
Step 4--Production and QA: prepping, building, and testing
Step 5--Launch and beyond: delivery, launch, and maintenance
Review By: Greg Turner 07/08/2010If you’re part of a Web team considering/undertaking a redesign, you should read this book. Having participated in about a dozen Web redesign projects as both a corporate developer and as a consultant, I found that this book reads like a “who’s who” of best practices to make redesign projects work—for the team, the client (internal or external) and the users. Even though the focus of this book is redesign, most, if not all, of the principles described would work equally well in the development of a new site.
The core of the book is the premise that a redesign project consists of five major phases: defining the project, developing the site structure, visual design and testing, production and QA and the launch and beyond. In addition to these five areas, the authors also take the time to discuss usability (testing and methodologies), competitive analysis, and the transition between development/maintenance.
This work started off a bit slow in that after a very short (but good) first chapter, it really bogged down in the second chapter. It seems to me that this was because the authors took the time to summarize most of the key processes that are at work during the five phases—when it wasn’t really needed and was likely adequately handled by the table of contents. In my opinion, this would have been a much better place to discuss usability and competitive analysis, as these two areas tend to provide many of the business reasons for a redesign in the first place. It seems to me that covering these two topics at the end of the book (however well written) didn’t do them justice.
Having worked on the Web for almost seven years, I found that I was having a hard time getting into the book, but that all changed when I reached chapter three.
In chapter three, “Defining the Project,” the authors give a look at the requirements process—but from the perspective of a development firm rather than that of a corporate group. I found it very interesting how well the authors have described the requirements process as it applies to client sites. The primary advantage of coming from this perspective is the fact that they draw on experience from a number of types of sites. As a result, they have provide a look at the requirements process that could expand the horizons of many working in a corporate environment where they are focused on one or two key Web products.
Chapter four discusses the development (not code) of the site structure. This is where they address issues like content development and planning, information chunking (the grouping of information into Web-logical chunks), information architecture, wire framing and more. As a former marketing guy, I really appreciated the amount of skill that the authors have in basic marketing concepts as well as the technical pieces. Their application of these skills at this point in a project could have a dramatic, long-term affect on the marketability (should be a testable feature) of a site.
Chapters five and six deal with Visual Design/Testing and Production/QA respectively. Although I generally agreed with the authors’ take on things in these two sections, I feel that it’s important to note that the four core topics of these two chapters could have been reorganized in many different ways – at least from the perspective of the project timeline. For example, it would be easy to argue that the QA phase could begin alongside the design and testing by having QA folks help provide existing standards that will become a de-facto part of the requirements. Another example would be how the actual development itself contributes back to the design. That said, it should also be obvious that developers would generally be able to contribute to the design through the development of little or no code – perhaps building a technology demonstrator rather than a full “proto-site.”
This book is about the process and the team. It conveys useful information for project managers, designers, marketers, testers, developers and more. Better yet, it does this very well—having an unusual level of detail for all in a book with a fairly large scope. This is one that I will keep close at hand.