There’s some good stuff in a recent post by Nick DeNardis on the Wayne State Web Communications blog. Nick writes about a holistic approach to web design and the risks associated with viewing your website as a project. I recommend reading his post; it inspired some of my own thoughts about iterative design and “redesign projects” in higher ed. (June 24 update: don’t miss the comments on this post. Good. stuff.)
I am a huge fan of iterative design; some of my best friends are iterative web designers. Seriously, it is the way to go when you already have a solid (doesn’t have to be perfect) university web presence in place.
But I’m not sure I agree with Nick’s assertion that web redesigns are a thing of the past. Perhaps when we’ve all gotten to a certain baseline, they will be passe. But there are colleges and universities whose websites require more than tweaking around the edges and even applying iterative design principles wouldn’t be enough.
And, while I agree with Nick’s statement that we shouldn’t think of websites as projects, there are elements of project management (like milestones and deadlines) that support comprehensive web redesign work in a university setting. In fact, a certain momentum comes from approaching the redesign as a project because typically, the default “let’s send it to committee” reaction at least helps you avoid some campus bureaucracy and can even result in one-time funding to hire an external partner. So, you can sometimes use the project phase to get the exceptional web presence you need; then you maintain and enhance it with a more iterative process (for design and content!) into the future.
I think iterative design only works when based on an acceptable foundation and we’re not all there yet.