Website Design, In Order

First Things FirstPeople first. Content next. Design & development after those two. Repeat as needed.

That’s the order to follow if you want your website or app to be intuitive, easy, and satisfying for the people who use it – your customers, citizens, clients, etc.

If you start with designing features and functions first, you can become committed to things your customers don’t care about. If you wait to fit the content people want into your established page or visual design, you may have to fit round pegs into square holes.

Of course, you can go back and try to fit the customer’s needs and the content they want into your design later.  But it will take extra time, and will rarely be as elegant as a project that puts people first to begin with.

Imagine designing a building before you know who will occupy it and what they will do there. A preschool is different than a bank is different than a church.  Yes, you can convert a facility made to pump fuel – a gas station – into a place for feeding people.  But your customers will know the difference, and the retrofit won’t be easy or cheap.

“We didn’t build this with you in mind.” That is the message sent by websites and technology that is hard to navigate, difficult to learn, and scattered with features that seem to have no order (because they were tacked on later, after people’s needs were clear).

If that’s the message you want your website to send, then go ahead and design it before you consider people and the content they need. Otherwise, I recommend starting with a user-centered design process. Your results will show the difference.