What makes a good project (we are the experts*)

To introduce, we were required to design and build a generic template for a large UK university that they could use for all their sub sites using their CMS software, which all serve a range of purposes and may be adapted. It also has to be responsive.

The project is still underway so no names can be named as of yet, but the build (that is, implementing it into the CMS software) by me is going well. I took over the reigns from Scott Riley who was the main point of contact with the client in the design phase, he also did his magic in designing it. Despite the fact this is still underway (having not yet even entered into user testing) we are really confident in singing it's praises as a good and enjoyable project for reasons henceforth...

1. Client involvement Sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad, it really does depend on the project, level of involvement and the client. In this case it was really positive in the design stage. Firstly, the client understand their objectives and what they want to achieve with this, they understand it needs to be generic and serve a range of content so have kept it so. They were also happy for us to run with ideas, if we think something would work well, no matter how out of the box, they let us do it. Finally, through Scott presenting the design to them well, reasoning his design decisions and reinfocing the fact we know what we are doing, they agreed that we could make further design decisions in the build phase. This is good.

2. Collaboration Anyone who has wandered past the internet bar during a weekly UX meeting will no doubt heard Scott at some point stress the value of collaboration, which is a point I agree with. A team is bigger than the sum of it's parts, and as a team we should be working together on ideas as much as we can. Sitting down (or standing) and discussing ways to approach something results in better ideas and more thought out decisions. One of the best outcomes we had in these sessions was the menu system, which works like a dream and hopefully the methodology can be used again on other projects. This is also good.

3. A chance to innovate A dropdown is tricky enough to tackle for responsive when it has one level, but what if it can have potentially infinate levels? This templates needed to have that depth as we don't know all it's uses yet, neither does the client. We spent half an hour at the bar thrashing out some ideas and landed on this rather nifty toggling menu on small screen. The menu scrolls left and right meaning you can drill up and down easily and for as far as you want, without loosing all the screen real estate. This is very good.

4. Adoption of new technologies Because of point 1 and facilitated with points 2 and 3, we are able to use all the lovely new technologies available to us such as CSS3 and HTML5. Through reassurance to the client that we are the experts with the collective knowledge and experience, we are able to fully utilise these things available to us and create beautiful semantic markup and lean mean CSS, without images. Being responsive also requires these so as soon as the client was on board with responsive, they were on board with the lot. Again through reassurance, we were able to get the client to give up pixel control and appreciate fuildity, which (hopefully) means less tickets regarding pixel pushing when we enter UAT. This will be good.

Overall it's important to stress that we aren't saying we struck it lucky with a good client or that we fluked being able to have time free to collaborate. We control all of these things, and it cascades down, eventally ending in a project that stands tall as good design and UX. If we present our initial designs well and spend the time to ensure the client is on the right line of thinking, we can adopt new technologies sucessfully and without protest, creating better and more future proof sites. Let's not be afraid to push for best practice. We are the experts*.

Posted on 9th Aug, 2012