Bench the ‘big reveal’ – adapting the design process in the digital space

By Dodge Communications (not verified) on November 13th, 2014

Let’s talk about the digital design process.

In the past, website projects were huge undertakings that ate up a lot of budget and took several month to complete. Sitemaps were approved, followed by design comps for every page of the website and a few months of closed-door development followed by a big reveal on launch day.

The problem with this method is that a lot of decisions and assumptions were made using static mockups that didn’t incorporate user feedback based on their interaction with the product. The feedback didn’t come until after an entire website or app was launched and even then it might not have been significant enough feedback to address.

However, the proliferation of mobile technology and the use of social media as platforms for feedback has changed the landscape in which websites and other digital projects exist.

Unlike static marketing and advertising projects, digital projects are interactive and allow users to engage with the technology, providing feedback on what does or doesn’t work. Over the past few years, the digital community has made a push towards incorporating user research at the beginning of a digital project, throughout development and after launch. The goal is to make smaller, iterative changes based on the user feedback so projects can be completed faster while reducing risk of increased development time. Take for example a recent email sent out by E*TRADE announcing their new website navigation: 

etrade website redeisgn

Several things in this message suggest that E*TRADE has adopted a more iterative process.

  • They are only focusing on their site navigation, not a full web redesign, with the goal of making it more streamlined. Site navigation is one of the most important components of a website. By focusing only on the navigation as it works within their existing site they can make incremental improvements to help users get to content faster. Using this process, E*Trade can quickly address existing user frustration and spend a smaller amount of development than would be required for a full site.
  • The new navigation was designed in collaboration with existing E*TRADE users. E*Trade’s current navigation is confusing and contains an overwhelming number of options. It’s likely they heard this same feedback from existing users and when it came time to update the navigation – those users were their first source of ideas for improvement.  
  • They are giving a preview to all of their users before launch. Allowing users to preview the new navigation before officially launching provides one last opportunity to find major usability issues. Note that this is different from the QA process where the navigation is reviewed at a strictly functional level to make sure there are no development issues.
  • There will be more improvements being made. Small tweaks can also be made post-launch as needed to further improve the navigation. Digital projects are not static and can always be adjusted to provide optimal usability.

Taking a more agile approach, integrating user feedback and getting rid of the ‘big reveal’ lessens the risk that users will find major issues with the new website or app post-launch. If issues do arise they are discovered earlier in the process and finding solutions becomes more manageable and less expensive to address. The level to which agile methodologies can be adopted will depend on various project factors. A good digital team will recognize the opportunities when an iterative approach is appropriate and feasible and guide you throughout the process.

To learn more about Dodge's digital offerings, visit our digital services page

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