An Event Apart: A Site Redesign

by December 8, 2009

Jeffrey Zeldman's opening presentation, A Site Redesign, at An Event Apart in San Francisco outlined his approach and tips for designing client and homegrown Web sites.

  • Whether we are working on client services or homegrown site: we are designing something that needs to meet someone else’s goals.
  • Start with a question: what problem are we trying to solve?
  • Being tired of a site is not necessarily a great reason to redesign.
  • Understanding the problem you are solving begins with research. Research uncovers achievable goals. Designers are not artists, that’s why they do research.
  • Research makes you a credible partner with stakeholders. Shows you care about business considerations. Shifts the conversation toward more strategic work from stylistic work.
  • Build the relationship before you show the design. This sets up collaboration between you and your client instead of a service-based relationship.
  • Redesign objectives need to be an integration of user needs & business goals.
  • First part of learning what people need is getting out and talking to them. Kick-off meetings are a great way to involve everybody on a project and get their ideas/perspective early.
  • Scenarios and personas help you make what people actually need.
  • Research helps you manage changing requirements. Can always return to the real things people really need. Provides you with bulletproof reasons to keep project on track.
  • Have a content strategy: know what the actual content on your site will be before you finalize your design. Who will create the content, when will it be ready? A content strategy prevents content from arriving at the last minute and forcing designs to change.
  • Alzheimer’s method: remind people where you are in the process before you present designs. Outline previous decisions, status, etc.
  • Learn to translate: sometimes people say one thing but mean another. Try to look for the actual meaning of people’s comments.
  • Convey the meaning of design so you don’t have to get into arguing the details. Use design to communicate the direction of the project: who is it for and how does the design reflect that? Don’t be tactical when showing design –clients will be tactical in return.
  • Dealing with feedback. When you receive feedback reference the research. Communicate the “why” behind the design. Bring the discussion back to the strategy level and away from the pixel level. Sell ideas not pixels.
  • Make it a strategic conversation, listen to the information in between the words, focus on the actual goals, and avoid starting at tactical discussions.
  • When looking for inspiration, check out what your peers are doing, where you have been, and more.
  • Design from the content out and ensure function is part of the design.