8 Phases of the Design Process Explained

Organizations have a need to communicate their positions on issues and make their products and services known to the public. Often, the need for communication, such as a website, is triggered by a change in strategic direction or a new offering. Identifying the reasons for the existence of the site and what it is supposed to achieve is the first step in the process. The goals and objectives that are set at the start of the project inform all future decisions, from the structure of the site and the naming conventions used in navigation to the visual design of the site.

The first step in the definition process is to interview the organization's stakeholders to identify the strategic objectives of the site, understand the key needs of the audience, and identify key competitors. The goal of the definition step is to identify three measurable key outcomes that are directly related to the organization's strategic objectives. The challenge in this step is to limit the number of goals. Most organizations will have more goals than they know what to do, and each department believes that the goals of their individual unit are the most important.

Being able to focus attention on the objectives of the organization will facilitate the development of the site and make the final product more effective. Before launching the site, it will be placed on a production server where only internal audiences and anyone you share the link with can see it. Site testing is critical, as there will inevitably be issues that need to be addressed before the site goes live. There is nothing that erodes a brand more than a site that is not working properly or that has spelling errors or broken design elements.

At this stage, it will be necessary to check the site on various browsers (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer) and on various devices (laptops, tablets and mobile devices) to see if and where interruptions occur. You've tested the site, the project stakeholders have reviewed and approved it, and you're ready to launch it. But once the site is launched, the project is not finished; you should be prepared to respond to comments from users who are adapting to the new site. Expect to make some immediate changes to the site, such as fixing broken links, editing text, and making adjustments.

The Web is a fluid medium that changes daily, if not every hour; change is inevitable. At this point, discussions on risks, issues and change management are likely to be brief. Risks and problems will be further developed during the exploration and design phases of the project. However, it must be analyzed in detail how risks and problems will be handled, as well as how change and change orders will be managed and executed in the project; this will be of great interest to any paying customer.

The primary delivery of the exploration phase is a Business Requirements Document (BRD) which must require formal customer approval. Without that approval, a project manager could be pursuing scope issues for an extended period of time. In general practice for external client projects, each unique delivery of each project must receive formal approval from a customer. The BRD release of this phase lays down a foundation for creating a Functional Design Document (FDD) or Functional Requirements Document (FRD), depending on what you want to call it; this document serves as a main delivery for next phase of project - design phase.

It is worth noting here that in projects which are smaller or have very tight deadlines, exploration phase and design phase can be compacted into one combined phase; usually referred to as design phase. This should only be done if absolutely necessary; separating phases allows for deeper analysis into business requirements and better opportunity for devoting time towards design with common understanding of what requirements system should meet. Once exploration phase - marked by customer's official approval of Business Requirements Document (BRD) - is complete, design phase can begin. If project has luxury of dividing Exploration and Design into two separate phases - do so! Few projects suffer from additional planning and requirements analysis in advance; however these two phases can be combined by compacting timeline or budget which can allow delivery team more time available for development and testing phases if deadline is tight.

At close of design phase team members who will support development effort in next phase should be identified and incorporated; FDD serves as basis for catching up with project requirements and what they will be working on during development effort. Technical Design Document (TDD) is documented outcome of development phase which may or may not be actual delivery to customer; if it is then it's actually for documentation purposes only - should NOT require formal approval as it's documented representation of “as-built” solution which can facilitate future changes by original vendor/customer/external vendor or assist customer during future upgrades - either way it's good to have it! 22.7% of respondents mention that not having enough time is their biggest problem with design thinking process; ideally customer has performed some process prior but if not then there are 8 phases which should help them get started: Feasibility Study, Programming, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documentation, Bidding & Negotiation, Construction Management & Post-Occupancy Training.

Dorothy Bauer
Dorothy Bauer

Extreme creator. Award-winning music geek. Award-winning twitter buff. Extreme coffee enthusiast. Subtly charming tv maven.

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