July 9, 2007

Design: An Iterative Process

I recently started reading Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge, one of the founders of the influential product design firm IDEO. The book is a fascinating compilation of interviews and analysis of the best designed and most innovative digital products. It covers everything from the industrial design theories behind the original laptop to the interface design for Google’s search page and all in between.

In particular, I was struck by Monggridge’s definition of essential design skills that he stated early on it the book:

The core skills of design are synthesis, understanding people, and iterative prototyping.
Bill Moggridge

The easiest of these skills to demonstrate is iteration. At 2 Out of Three these practices are employed to create effective and memorable designs. No matter how much time you spend planning you’re design up front there will always be features you did not implement at launch, bugs you missed, and aesthetics that can be improved. The fact that the web is such a fluid medium and easily updated gives the design and development team the chance to revisit their initial decisions and improve upon them after launch. Unlike a console video game or a movie, a web site has flexibility to constantly improve and adjust based on user feedback and more development time. Maybe this is the reason we have seen a rise in the popularity of “Beta” public release.

Now that 2 Out of Three has been live with the Cayman Diving Lodge site for a few months it’s interesting to look back at the iterations we have gone through since our launch. In the months since our launch we have added the following features and updated the aesthetics in the following areas:

  • A blog
  • A Photo Gallery
  • An accurate local weather display
  • Improved URL strings
  • Flash drop down menus
  • Redesigned front page and call to action buttons
  • Redesigned sub pages

You can see the evolution of the site in the following screens shots taken over the last few months.

Front Page at initial launch in April 2007
The initial launch design for the front page

Front Page after second iteration in May 2007
A second iteration on the frontpage added an overlay for the logo and a short text blurb to highlight a sub page

Front Page after third iteration in June 2007
The third iteration added increased prominence to text blurbs in order to call out subpages

Current Front Page after third iteration in July 2007
The current front page, our fourth iteration, includes a new 3 column highlight region to direct visitors to sub pages.  We also incorporate the latest blog entry into the first column.

It’s an excellent exercise to take a step back and look at where you’ve come from. In addition to checking in with my own work I’ve really enjoyed looking back at two of my favorite products over the past few years the iPod and Netflix. Keep watching all our sites as we continually iterate and tweak them to ensure we deliver top quality designs and features by constantly reevaluating how well a site or design is working and where it can be improved. Hopefully, you’ll see an interview with the 2 Out of Three design team in the next edition of Designing Interactions.