The lifespan of a planned application or website is an important (and often overlooked) requirements influencer. Many questions come to mind that appear to be technical in nature but have to be understood by the designer to optimize their design decisions on capabilities and known limitations of the target technology. Designs can never truly be technology agnostic and in my opinion if they are, then this fact will create gaps between design and implementation later on. So you better be aware of them.
Typical Questions to ask:
- Will the app be likely be superseded by something else within the next 6 months?
- Is another known technology catching up and soon more prominent than our current target technology?
- Do we rely on third-party tools/plugins that need to be maintained or maybe will render our application unmaintainable?
Amount for various cases where your design needs to be flexible enough to handle changes over time. These can include:
- Administration: more objects (users, items) are added over time. Does the app provide pagination? Search? How easy can they be plugged in?
- Load: processing times increase. How will the system display delays in page refreshes? Download times?
- Client requests: more functionality needs to be added. Is the design flexible enough to accommodate another button or menu item? Etc.
- i18n: multi-language support needed? Now? Later? Maybe?
- Accessibility: is it worth the effort?
- Support for MVP (minimal viable product) and incremental improvements?
In many ways the Maya calendar and it's associated 2012 phenomenon are a good example for design decisions based on lifespan. Who cared back then that after 5125 years the calendar would need to be reset (or cannot handle more combinations), like many software systems didn't take into consideration what is now known as the Y2K or Millennium bug which was caused by the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits for pure storage consideration, which nowadays in our abundance world of storage is really hard to follow. But hey, it costed an estimated remediatioin of $416.- in today's currency world-wide.
Take into consideration the lifespan of your app when designing it. Any negligence is careless design and may result in increased cost or even an unmaintainable or unusable product later on.
What are your experiences with lifespan?
Starting into the new year with a short list of high quality links. As always, your feedback and suggestions are greatly welcome 🙂 Cheers!
- Cross Browser HTML5 Progress Bars In Depth (by Zoltan “Du Lac” Hawryluk)
- 15 Web Design Trends to Watch Out For in 2012 (by Jake Rocheleau)
- Profiling CSS for fun and profit. Optimization notes (by kangax)
- Google Maps: Designing the Modern Atlas (by Willem Van Lancker)
- Password strength verification with jQuery (by Jim Nielsen)
- 15 Responsive CSS Frameworks Worth Considering (by Paul Andrew)
- Complexity and User Experience (by Jon Bolt)
- Origins of the Apple Human Interface
- Internet Visionary Paul Otlet - Networked Knowledge, Decades Before Google (by Meike Laaff)
- The Anatomy of an Experience Map (by Chris Risdon)
- A Complete Color Spectrum of Web Design Inspiration (by Chris Spooner)
Minimalist Web Design: How Minimal is Too Minimal? (by Delwin Campbell)
Usually I recommend 2 rounds of wireframes (more rounds are ok during proposals).
If you still cannot move on after 3 rounds of wireframes this is typically a good indicator that your project has some sort of underlying problem that you should detect and address right now.
Typical Problem Areas
From my observation problems can arise in many different forms. The simple identification of such is half the rent to address them (and I will leave the resolution up to you here).
No real user need
Every project should have been initiated by a user need. Many times that isn't the case and that is when it becomes difficult to defend a design to new requests, just because pretty much everything sounds like a great idea. So how can one
- measure the usefulness of the overall site?
- accept/deny new ideas or requirements?
- define the importance of requirements and their conceptual representation?
- design the visual hierarchy without clear or shifting priorities?
That's tough, it's like going fishing without campfire. Educated guesses are more important and also difficult than ever. Define a story that follows a vision that makes sense.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
Is there a sense that every time you step into a design meeting the wind has changed 180 degrees? Indicators for a deeper problem are when the team cannot settle on a wireframe because of
- conflicting opinions
- never-ending subjective feedback
- scope creep
- YADRN (yet another design review needed)
- executive seagull effect
- design by committee
Try to make the best out if by asking lots of questions, a little evangelizing, prioritizing feedback, and plenty of skilled design balance.
Poorly defined requirements
Every requirement should serve the purpose of the site, i.e. the user need(s) that drive the vision and right of existence of the endeavor. Maybe your requirements need refinement because they are
- too vague
- missing a definition of WHY they are needed
- defined by committee rather than thoughtful (and curated) selection
Mockups will help you identify missing requirements or surface items that don't make sense anymore in the big picture.
Undecided project manager
Decisions have to be made, priorities have to be set, deadlines need to be met, requirements satisfied. Somebody has to sail the ship and make decisions. You know the project has a managerial problem when design decisions cannot be taken because of
- new requirements popping up like mushrooms
- another 360 (as the wind blows)
- lack of authority given to the designer
Find somebody that can make executive decisions or make the decision for yourself (I know, nobody likes to piss off their PM, but pick your battles).
Issues with the client aren't uncommon, and not always is the client the problem, but certainly some clients can be more challenging than others. Find ways to finalize your designs and move on when
- requests about the HOW increase
- nitpicking increases
- conceptual designs are dissected to the dot on the i
- changing their mind on a daily basis
Go back to the roots, ask questions about WHAT and WHY you are doing this. Ask specifically what you can do to finalize any given slide, let them tell you and move on.
Missing domain knowledge
Not everybody can be a subject matter expert, but somebody has to and this somebody needs to be available to clarify and consult. You know you are missing a SME when the mockups
- tell an incomplete story
- can't hold up to critical questions
- an actual expert doesn't understand the mockups
Involve domain experts early, listen to their advise and take it seriously.
Last but not least, the problem could be the designer himself. Sometimes the designer didn't have the time to get his head around the complexity of the project, he or she is
- missing the holistic view of the system
- is missing crucial information to design well
- is facing impediments that weren't solved in time
- got hung up on a failed design and didn't want to start over
- fell in love with a design and can't let go
- is purely not capable of designing/communicating well
Have peer-reviews, offer a mental break, mentor the designer in his/her creative blockage or inability to get their head around the subject. Create a culture of failure where it is ok to accept a u-turn and throw away a design in favor of a potentially better one.
I would love to hear about your experiences and especially how you resolved any issues.
- 25 Excellent Photoshop Web Design Layout Tutorials (by Marcell Purham)
- Showcase of Impressive Design Process Explanations (by Chris Spooner) - explaining your design process is a great way of building trust
- Hottest Web Applications of the Month – June (by Jacob Creech)
- 65 Useful Android Apps for Designers (by Kay) - I like ColorSnap, tells you the color palette of pictures you've taken
- Five important things to do before any redesign (by Jeff Sauro) - You have customers because you solve some problem...
He earned his master from the University of Michigan specializing in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and has a BS in Computer Science and a background in graphic design.
I'm very excited knowing that we can now further improve our ability to designing map interfaces. Welcome on board!
- User-interface, user-experience & usability explained (by Bernard Schokman) - I think the title is misleading, it's more about "Practical design principles for UI/UX/Usability Design"
- 10 Important UI Design Considerations for Web Apps (by Marc Gayle) - try polishing the little things to make your app truly awesome
- Tools for Facilitating Feedback on Prototypes and Wireframes (by David Leggett) - What's your favorite? Why?
- How to Identify the Best Design Problems (by Joshua Porter) - About the importance of prioritization.
- A Guide to CSS Colors in Web Design (by Alexander Dawson) - Once again a great guide by Alexander; contrast, shades, hues, transparency and co.
- 40 Beautiful and Elegant WordPress Themes of May 2011 (by Madalin Tudose) - very nice collection, wordpress has come a long way and so did its front-end designers
- HOW TO: Add the +1 Button to Your WordPress Site (by Christina Warren) - if you like it or not, here is the +1 Button integration...
- Why You Should Buy Your First 5000 Twitter Followers (by Rohit) - ethical or not... love or not love... with a little help from your friends
- So you think you can build a website? (by Vitamin in Talent) - a really handy flowchart to determine if your idea will result in a great website
- The ultimate HTML5 resource guide (by Cameron Chapman) - what else to say? ultimate resouce guide!
- (More) Useful Web Usability Testing Tools (by hongkiat) - What are your experiences with these tools? Which one is your favorite? Why?