Designing and Prototyping

Once a plan has been developed and requirements specified, the next step is to design the project. Specifically, design includes four factors:

  1. Functional Design - Determining what tasks (functions) the user will be able to perform
  2. Technical Design - Determining what information systems are impacted and what programming is needed
  3. User Interface Design - Determining the way in which the user will interact with the site
  4. Visual Design - Determining the aesthetic qualities, the "look and feel" of the Web site.

The design process begins with looking at the users. Since the purpose of the site is to solve a problem for an audience, these must be the first consideration: who will use the site? Why will they use it? What benefit will they derive?

Next, the process turns to information systems. Since a site usually interfaces shares data with existing information systems, the systems architecture is key.

Then, the process turns to stylistics, how the site looks and feels, the visual impression, and how the aesthetic quality of the site compares to the design of other media the user may have encountered.

The author suggests a five-phase process to developing the site concept:

  1. Develop a menu-tree diagram, showing the organization of content into sections and subsections, cascading down from the site's home page to and individual page of content.
  2. Plan the functional design, looking at the individual tasks that a user will need to perform using a site. This may require adjustments to the previous diagram
  3. Technical design, considering the user's capabilities in terms of software and connection that they can be expected to have
  4. User Interface Design determines exactly how the user will interact with the site, how they will flow through the content and each application
  5. Visual design concerns itself with aesthetic matters

The author suggests testing concepts with prototypes, though he's not clear on exactly what he means by that. In his terms, it is "the first version of the Web site" prior to testing. EN: This practice has later been deprecated in favor of paper and/or low-fidelity prototypes prior to programming the actual Web site.

The author suggests that its important to "elicit user feedback as early as possible" but does not go into detail about when to do this or how.

Finally, a random note on content: when developing a site, a lot of information is gathered, and even more is generated. A significant Web site project might be a good opportunity for companies to consider the implementation of a content management system to serve as a central repository for all its materials.