Implementing best practices for web design with iterative methodologies

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Carving out the lifespan of any project is always best structured with a stable framework to anchor its foundations. Many digital design agencies navigate their strategies and workflows with different approaches that work best for them. However, one methodology that many UI/UX companies have adopted, including our own design agency, is the iterative design approach.

Iterative implies a much more flexible and dynamic mode of design. It fits perfectly into an agile workflow as it alternates between designing, prototyping, and testing until the overall goal is achieved. Typically conducted in sprints, iteration has propelled web designers toward productivity, reduced overhead, and worked as an ode to putting the user at the center of all design.

However, iterative methodologies are only as effective as the team implementing them and can be achieved with best practices that embody these flexible strategies.

A focus on the user

User experience design is continually developing new methods that center the user around their design decisions. User experience design works in tandem with an iterative web design approach. It focuses on how to further improve a design as a project progresses. When incorporating iterative design strategies, the focus on the user should never become cloudy or get lost in the process.

Iterative workflows work best when they continuously eliminate design elements that can cloud the experience with cognitive friction. While collaboration and feedback with a business/customer is the backbone of iteration, being aware of the need to align design with a brand identity also informs the overall user experience.

In iterative cycles, the design components that need to be adjusted throughout should focus on how to remove clutter from the design. Collaborative cycles within iterative design can ensure there is no visual clutter. The navigation is clear as the journeys lead to corresponding expectations and the content is not abstruse. These can be cleaned up and improved through iterative versioning across visual hierarchies, user mapping, and design alignment with a company’s branding for consistency. Focusing on these essentials can eliminate cognitive friction because iterative design constantly improves along the way and can fix errors earlier in the development process.

Related: 5 Tips for Creating Innovative UX Design

An openness to comments

A design tool that can often be overlooked can be something as simple as comments. Whether it’s realigning the internal team or collaborating with a client to present a functional design, feedback truly informs the design when the method is iterative. Reconceptualizing iterative methodologies as a philosophy helps embed them much more seamlessly within design agencies until they become second nature.

So, once embodied as a philosophical framework, there is an openness to customer feedback. It helps to make sure their brand is consistent with the design to ensure that their target audience can experience a brand-identifiable interface. Receptivity to feedback also internally strengthens team collaboration, as the scope of the project becomes much more focused. It also encourages the concept that rejection of an idea or design is simply a redirect to something bigger. And that it can be achieved with an iterative mindset and an openness to change without thinking too much about the process.

Related: Design Thinking Isn’t a Process, It’s a Mindset

Iteration persists after development

When integrating iterative design into an agency’s work ethic, it should be understood that iterative cycles do not simply end when a website or mobile interface goes live. On the contrary, it should continue long after that. The purpose of iterations is to ensure that there is a consistent layer of improved changes that can continue long after a project has ended. A key part of ensuring iterative design continues after development is usability testing. Testing is part of the iterative cycle during development. However, since iterative design can take place at any stage of development, testing can also take place at any stage, including post-development.

Usability testing is essential to ensure that web design, functionality, and user reception can meet at a nexus between an enjoyable experience and innovation. Testing is done through analytics and data analysis, heat mapping, or UX heuristics assessment. Iterative testing can ensure that all pain points are addressed and any need for improvement is addressed to promote a solid user experience.

Clear communication is essential

As with any collaborative project, clear communication is a vital necessity. Communication allows the composition of a website to be fully visible with purpose, efficiency and clarity. This rings true with iterations as it opens up the possibility for web design agencies to internally delegate tasks within a team based on expertise and the task at hand. Communicating in an iterative framework also collectively informs which areas of the design worked and which did not. This involves a collaborative approach to reorient towards improvement. Understanding of design areas that need to be revisited can only be strengthened when communication is clear to keep a team on the same page throughout a project.

Again, communication with a client or business is paramount. Allowing a client to be as involved in a design as the design agency itself removes any nasty surprises at the end of development. Thus, the probability of re-designing an interface will be reduced. Therefore, invite an active customer to feel part of the team by informing them of changes based on their feedback. Or, just update them on the project process as your team works on it.

Involving the customer from the start also boosts productivity and trust. It features initial progress such as site plans, design ideas, and even curating a list of possible questions to ask to ensure full alignment. When a customer/company feels involved, it encourages a sense of ownership of their digital interface and builds a close relationship.

Related: How (and Why) Collaboration Brings Stronger, More Creative Web Design

Iterative design can contribute to the proper delineation of any UI/UX development project. Web design strategies like iteration work best when its framework is used correctly to boost efficiency, productivity, and most importantly, an unforgettable user experience.

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About Irene S. Stroupe

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