Monday, April 21, 1997

MethodFive After 5 Forum

From there I trekked on over to methodfive's first After-5 Web Forum held at the offices of NickandPaul in the Chelsea Market on April 21st. Kenneth Goldsmith, who heads up the design department at methodfive, spoke on "Ramping Up Without Dumbing Down: Lessons Learned from methodfive's Own Site Redesign." Below is a recap of Mr. Goldsmith's points:

"A little money spent on good design is money well spent. If the front end isn't compelling, dynamic and user-friendly, it doesn't matter how great the back end is. Make sure the design properly conveys what you want your audience to perceive about your brand. Additionally, good design should never hinder usability. Site architecture, aesthetics and usability go hand in hand. A designer should not only be thinking about the site's look and feel, but also about how a particular audience will use their design. Communicate through the entire development process. Institute and follow a formal communication process to allow key decision-makers and designers to make comments, suggest changes, and review progress. Having an objective project manager who can keep the process on track by scheduling and leading regular meetings and critiques between the "client" and designers makes the project go smoothly. Before you begin work, ask your Web development company to create a detailed site blueprint that analyzes the scope of your Web initiative: the competition, content, functionality, risks, revenue streams, etc. As the client, ensure that you understand the components and ramifications of what's outlined in the spec before submitting it to the designers or to others involved in your Web initiative, such as the content producers or programmers. All involved parties, especially the designers, should then follow this document to the letter. Using an extranet to post thoughts, comments and feedback regarding the site's development and for designers to post their work helps with communication and meeting expectations. Allow your designers to be experimental and innovative during the first stages of design to get creative juices flowing. Then assign a "cranky monkey" who helps the designers integrate their imaginative and inventive designs into a site that's practical, functional and buildable. While keeping in mind the new technologies that will be able to repackage and distribute information in a new and innovative way, be aware of who your audience is and their level of technology. Analysis on who your user is and what the level of technology they'll be using to access your site is also important. Designing for a lower-end browser and keeping plug-ins to a bare minimum to ensure that the site can be accessed by the greatest amount of people possible is one way to ensure your users are accessing your site with ease."

(Appeared originally in @The Scene in the @NY newsletter)