Effective communication at all stages can make the difference.
Whether your software development team or web agency are on the other side of your office or on the other side of the world, communication is the key to a successful project.
Communication is a two-way street – especially where complex business processes are involved. This applies to both sides equally. For example, you, the client, may be confused by the technical, development-specific terms being used by your web team, and so it’s important that you ask for clarification at the earliest stages to avoid any expensive misunderstandings.
Developers, on the other hand, need to be mindful of the fact that a lot of people won’t have their levels of technical knowledge and language, and this is in no way a reflection of their ability to understand the fundamentals of the design and build process, but merely highlights a need for both sides to try and communicate without excessive jargon.
And speaking of jargon, clients need also to remember that your business and its associated specialisations, processes and language might be very familiar to you, but could easily be misunderstood by someone working outside of your sector. So always take the time to start by giving any external agency an overview of your business before you start work. (Good software development agencies should take care of this at an early stage as part of their introduction and scoping processes). Ask the agency to do the same for you, and have them talk you through their team structure and explain or share reading materials on their specific project management processes. This will help both sides to understand each other’s needs from the start of the project and is a great opportunity for both sides to ask for explanations of any complex processes or unfamiliar language before work starts.
At this stage it’s good to meet or talk to as many of the client facing development and design team leaders or project managers as you need to, so you can be satisfied that they all fully understand where you’re coming from, and where your project needs to end up. This helps to avoid any cases of miscommunication further down the line as a large team may often rely on only one person (likely a project or account manager) to keep a broad overview of the project. Developers by their nature must focus on individual tasks and specialities, and a multi-skilled team on a large or complex development project may take a wide variety of different paths as part of the build and design process, but a confirmed understanding of the project goals before work starts will help everyone on the team to stay on track, and fully focused on the same end result.
But great communication shouldn’t just be limited to your development team. Always remember that the end product, be it an app, blog, e-commerce or even portfolio website, is a product that is designed to communicate something to your customers or end users. Therefore it’s good to make certain at the earliest stage of the design process exactly what you want to share with your audience and work with your design team from the very beginning to ensure that the right message is communicated.
Clear communication through design means taking care over the text as well as images. Make sure that icons are easily and quickly recognisable and use them in conjunction with headers and subheaders to help guide visitors through your site smoothly.
Make sure that the amount of content (written and visual) is proportionate to the type of message you want to convey – for example, pages and pages of small print have no place on a design-led e-commerce site – but a site designed to convey a large amount of complex information needs effective copy that is easy to read and navigate. Think also of the end user, and make allowances for language differences if a global audience, and always be mindful of accessibility.
Put yourself in the visitors’ shoes. Is it always obvious who you are and what you do? If not, a redesign is necessary so that this information is always available to them. And remember to include obvious links back home and to any calls to action, you want them to follow. Try and test out your designs and copy on a wide variety of people and devices to ensure that your message is clear every time.
If you started the project by clearly communicating your desired end goal to the entire development and design team, you should all have been heading in the same direction despite the different paths you may have needed to take to get there.