How to Remain Organized When Working on Large-Scale Design Projects
If you had the opportunity to ask any one of my peers, “what was the last spontaneous thing that Bridget did?” you’d most likely be greeted with silence and dumbfounded stares. I don’t exactly “do” spontaneous. I am a planner: it’s who I am, who I’ve always been, and probably who I’ll always be.
While this may not make for the most thrilling spring breaks or hair-raising weekend adventures, it does make for a very stable, well-executed design process.
Before you begin to feel sorry for me and what may sound like a pretty boring existence, please note that I really am quite fun outside of work. I just like lists…and schedules…and a high level of communication. In this post, I will review all of my (pseudo-obsessive-compulsive) tips for organizing and executing a large-scale project.
Stop Playing Telephone
The first step I like to take with any project is to speak with the client. I prefer to speak in person, but if this isn’t possible, video chat or even a quick phone is just fine. It really doesn’t matter how you communicate with the client, just as long as you take the time to do so.
While this may seem very basic, it is all too often overlooked. Even I’m guilty of skipping this initial step. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve settled for the information that someone gave me about the client, instead of going straight to the source.
When I was in grade school, we used to play a game called “telephone.” You are probably already familiar with it, but for those who may not know, I will briefly explain it here. “Telephone” is game traditionally played with three or more people sitting side by side. The first person whispers a sentence into the second person’s ear, who then transfers the message to a third person’s ear. This goes on until you run out of players. When the final person receives the message, he or she stands up and delivers the first person’s message aloud. It is at this point that everyone laughs out loud, because the message has usually become misconstrued to the point of absurdity.
While at the time this seemed like a harmless game meant to occupy our time while our teachers took a much-needed break, I find myself continuously playing this game throughout my adult life. Only it’s not funny anymore. Now when the original message is misconstrued, no one rolls on the floor laughing. Instead, there are repercussions and angry clients.
The point of this little anecdote is that eventually in our lives, we need to stop playing telephone. How do we do this? We go straight to the source. Next time you begin a project, and your supervisor/peer/friend explains the project’s objectives, kindly thank them and ask for the client’s phone number. Chances are, your second-hand source has inadvertently misinterpreted crucial information. By going straight to the source, and gaining a complete understanding of the project, you are less likely to run into problems later in the project.
Furthermore, I don’t believe that designers should be the only employees who work toward this level of communication. If copywriters and social media experts will also be working on the project, wouldn’t it make sense to include them from the very beginning as well? Of course it does! Do yourself a favor, schedule a meeting or a group phone call, and involve all necessary parties from the get-go.
Designers Are Essential
Now that I’ve explained the importance of open lines of communication, I’d like to discuss why I feel designers are a crucial part of most web-based projects.
To start, I don’t want you to get the impression that I think designers are important, because I’m a designer and I think I’m important, or because I feel the need to push for some sort of job security.
I feel the way I do because I have seen what happens when designers are not involved from the beginning of projects. Many employers and clients have an inaccurate idea of what web design is. It is often viewed as the colors that make up a webpage or what images are used within the site. While these are pieces that make up the design puzzle, they really don’t give you the full picture. Design is about analysis and problem solving. It is about completely immersing yourself in a problem and repeatedly reviewing it until you come up with the correct solution. And this solution is about more than color scheme or image choice. It is about emotion, usability and authority.
In addition to the understanding of usability that designers can provide, they also assist with moving a project forward internally. Designers are visual communicators. We take your thoughts, refine them and deliver them back to you in a neat, creative, visual package. One of the most basic forms of visual communication within the team is wireframes. Through sketches and digital wireframes, designers help to bring ideas to life.
Keep The Creativity In Check
I am currently working on a large project within Optimum7 that we are all very excited about. What is it, you ask? It’s top-secret, of course! I suppose you’ll just have to keep reading my articles every week, in hopes that I will soon spill the beans.
The reason we are so excited about this project, is that it is truly pushing us to our limits. We are working to execute this more seamlessly than ever before. We are working hard to complete thorough research, incorporate excellent design, and stay focused. However, staying focused is not always so easy.
When I’m excited about a project, the creativity seems to rush through the office, each idea falling over the last. And while creativity is an excellent gift, you must be careful, because at some point, it can actually drown you.
What I mean by this is that most web-based projects begin the same way: with a single idea. Very soon after the project begins, the single idea multiplies into a range of concepts, functionalities, and goals. It is very important to not overwhelm yourself by adding bells and whistles before they are necessary. Instead, nail down all of the basic functionalities and work from there.
But what about the other brilliant ideas you’ve come up with during the course of the project? Be patient. Keep them in a Word document, or if you are old-fashioned, a nice notebook. Their time will come, but you need to write them down in an organized manner or you are sure to forget them.
There is a time and place for spontaneity and chaos, but design projects are neither the time nor the place. In my opinion, a well-organized project makes for a more efficient product. Now, this doesn’t mean that we all need to button up our collared shirts and drone on in our offices in an artless hell; it just means some of us need to be a bit more careful throughout our processes so we will be able to give all of our excellent ideas the full attention they deserve.
Do you have an idea for a web-based project that you’d like to execute? Contact us today!