The reality is that as a business owner, the job of building a successful, effective online product is never really done. Things change fast in the online world. Standards change. Technology changes. You may have a grand vision for your finished product, but putting our heads down and working diligently towards that final goal could be all for nothing if the market or user habits have shifted in the meantime.
As such, Tangled Web Media takes a holistic and agile approach to your online success. Planning and extrapolation is important, but can’t replace real-world, actionable feedback. Our process puts the focus on the people that use your products and how they use them; monitoring their actions on an ongoing basis in order to best formulate future objectives.
This agile process ensures your product can be put in front of your target audience as quickly as possible. To do that, we identify and prioritize goals, then “sprint” through each, growing your product organically by adding smaller pieces of functionality as we go.
Working in this way offers many advantages, but the biggest benefit is that your launched app or website is in the market generating actionable analytic data from real users as we go. rather than sitting in a testing environment not doing anything while working towards full completion.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we launch half-baked or under-developed products just so we can say we met a deadline. We set standards with you for each goal, and ensure they are met before launching.
This is often referred to as the minimum viable product, and you see it all the time, even if you don’t realize it. That fancy new app or web based product you’re using isn’t the end product – it’s just the first stage. More updates will be added and functionality will grow over time. Those features aren’t just being made up as they go, they’ve been planned from the beginning and simply prioritized.
Having a viable product out there, even if it might not yet have the full functionality of the overarching goal, can provide you with invaluable feedback. That feedback can then be used to ensure future steps are on the right track, or give us the opportunity to change course if we feel the original plan may need to be modified slightly. This helps ensure maximum effectiveness of your website or application over time, and most importantly, a worthwhile return on investment for you.
Each sprint or phase of our projects consists of the following milestones:
Step 1: Information Gathering
The first step of our process would be a consultation with you, the client. We’ll meet to discuss your motivations, requirements and goals for the new project to understand expectations, timelines, etc.
We’ll then determine what constitutes a minimum viable product, prioritizing requirements and functionality accordingly so we know what needs to be accomplished in the initial sprint.
Depending on the type of project, we would also discuss and plan Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies for your content, as well as short and long term deployment of promotional marketing tactics such as Pay-Per-Click advertising to help increase exposure and drive results and conversions.
Step 2: User Identification and Behavior Analysis
Your business goals are crucial, but must always be weighed against the goals and needs of the end user.
We take available data and feedback to determine target users and translate existing analytics information to optimize the ways these users will interact with your online product.
This analysis also helps us determine which information or functionality should be given priority as we move forward throughout the process, so that users get the best experience possible, as quickly as possible.
Step 3. Digital Product Architecture
Our team will discuss and establish an architecture plan based on the information determined in Step 2. This “roadmap” serves as reference throughout the rest of the sprint to ensure interactive content is properly weighted and intuitively organized for users based on their needs.
Step 4. User Interface Wireframing and Prototyping
Based on the project architecture, we can extrapolate the number of unique interfaces that will be required to ensure users are able to easily and efficiently access the information and tools they deem most important. Some projects may have only two or three layouts, others may have dozens.
Device-specific wireframes act as a guide to the orientation of visual and interactive elements on each unique interface. Each element is strategically placed to affect and influence user interactions to help users accomplish their goals in the most efficient way possible.
In the case of App development, we may also incorporate what’s referred to as prototyping. Similar to story-boarding, prototyping allows us to visually demonstrate interactivity, charting the optimal “user flow” of the functionality to ensure it meets requirements and is easy to use. This helps everyone understand how the product should be used when it comes time for our coders to do their thing later on.
Step 5. Hi-Fidelity Mockups
Upon review and approval of the wireframes and workflow prototypes, we begin the process of creating highly detailed, non-functional visual representations of each wireframe template in several different device environments.
This is the step where the project begins to take life and resemble a finished product. We see colors, fonts, sample images and content represented. Design flourishes are added.
At this stage we see how the product will really look across not only large monitors but also tablets and smartphones (responsive design). As with any phase of the process, we can make subtle changes to the layout if anyone feels changes are necessary.
Subject to client review and revisions, these mockups serve as the visual design guidelines for the product.
Step 6. Development and Implementation
In a staging environment we work to transform the previous work into the actual functional product. For websites, this would normally be done using the WordPress platform. Other technologies can be used for other endeavors such as mobile applications. This includes custom theme creation, implementation of custom post types, plugin incorporation and custom functionality.
Based on our wireframing and prototyping, each unique page layout is created. Optimized content is then placed on each page or screen in accordance with the previously developed SEO strategy.
Step 7. Internal Usability Testing and Quality Assurance Testing
The finished online product is tested internally by other members of the in-house quality assurance team as well as your representatives and stakeholders.
Before “going live” we want to ensure the product is problem-free, functions as intended and we are confident users can interact with the product in ways that will both allow them to easily and efficiently achieve their goals while also ensuring your business goals are met.
Step 8. Launch and External User Testing/Monitoring
The new online product or functionality is made accessible to the general public. User interactions are monitored to ensure activity is in line with expectations.
When possible, the client will periodically engage users for feedback. This feedback, in conjunction with ongoing analytics, are used over time to gauge success of usability and client business goals.
Step 9: Repeat as Necessary
If we are happy with the results, we return to the early steps and begin a sprint to complete the next facet of the project based on its priority.
If testing or feedback reveals shortfalls in performance related to usability or business goals, changes are suggested and reviewed. Depending on the scale of the proposed solution, we may return to earlier steps and repeat our processes to ensure the desired results are achieved.