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— Mar 4, 2013 —

The importance of planning in our design process

Personally, I always loved the waterfall method. For the majority of my career I have solely been a developer. You'd go an get everything you need in terms of content, style and functionality. It would be all planned out, visuals would be provided, then I could get on with the build and finally launch the site.

This simply cannot be the case anymore.

For something as flexible as the web, especially since the introduction of Responsive Web Design, we cannot afford to be so structured in the way we plan, document, design and build a website.

On another personal note, I've never liked the agile process. I have only worked with the approach for a short period of time, but in my particular experience, it really felt like nothing was moving. Nothing was getting done. Just to re-iterate, this was my own personal experience. Once.

But in that process, I could see elements that would have been ideal for projects I had previously worked on in a more rigid waterfall structure. The ability to be flexible, especially in situations where you can be bound by the restraints in a project (i.e. time, budget, resources, etc.), is simply an absolute must.

I've always worked in an agency environment, and it's imperative that processes must be documented and followed. But you must always look to keep this as a high-level, over-arching process that runs from the inception of a project through to completion, and there really is no need to go any deeper than that.

My reason for this high-level documentation is down to the need for flexibility in the early planning stages. This is key in any project. To be able to spend the time to get a complete understanding of the project, from designer to developer, content creator and project manager, becomes a massive benefit to the entire project in the long run.

Just the other day I had one of those inspirational moments where your brain switches over and throws you a moment of clarity.

This particular moment happened when I was sorting out my laundry.

When I take my socks off the clothes airer, I bundle them into pairs there and then. When they're all nicely paired up, of they go to live, nice and neatly placed, in the sock drawer. I now know that every time I go to my sock drawer, I can pop my hand in, and even if it's pitch black, I know that every time I will pull out a matching pair.

If I hadn't spent those extra few seconds that it took to bundle them up, I'd be digging around in the dark, trying to get a matching pair, ultimately failing and ending up wearing odd socks.

And that's no good to anyone.

Especially if you're a bit OCD on wearing matching socks like I am.

My point is that the time you spend planning upfront can be minuscule compared to the amount of time that can simply be lost when there are gaps in your plan. If you have a tight time frame, or a pressing deadline, that lost time results in panic, last minute scope changes and poorly thought-out quick-fixes, which all results in a website wearing odd socks.

And no one wants to launch a website that's wearing odd socks.