Five Architectural Techniques Web Designers Can Use
1. Ask good questions and try a ‘charrette’ to ensure accuracy: Just as with an architectural construct, the better the questions we ask up front and the better we understand the intent, the better the result will be. Pre-design planning is critical. Even though most designers believe the planning stage is important, a reminder cannot hurt. Also the concept sketch and blueprint approach are names that clients are likely to be familiar with in explaining what a wire framing is. One noteworthy approach architects take is called a “charrette,” which is an intense period of design planning where designers and client members and all involved collaborate on a design vision, taking initial ideas and turning them into representations that may include any appropriate form to express the developing vision, such as a model, a plan, a 3D rendering, sketches or story boarding. Encouraging clients to do this or take part in a meeting with a design firm charrette, or simply responding to a design firm’s presentations in a second meeting with the client becomes part of the charrette and the firm responds to the client during the meeting, that could be productive. Having multiple eyes and ears to catch feedback that is nonverbal is also important.
2. Let user activities define the design: In architecture, the people who use activities that will happen inside the construct dictate the design. Architects frequently list all activities that will occur in a given structure, or they create an Activities List. In web design, drawing up a comprehensive list of all possible activities that will occur will determine the content, and how the designers will plan around the content can make a big difference.
3. Use malleable elements in the design: Make sure the design includes at least some elements that need no change or that are timeless. In the case of buildings, that means selecting evergreen design elements since a building cannot change. For websites, whether they be in Drupal, Magento, Joomla or other CMS, mobile or other based, that means either using some evergreen web design elements, i.e. some not trendy but classic since changes cannot be made exactly when most timely usually, or include some easily malleable and changeable elements such as creating a section of the design that is meant to change with certain activities or events without having to redo the structure.
4. Do not reinvent the wheel: With architecture there are codes and standards that dictate how the basic design will be structured, such as with hotels, there is a set number of stairs and width and length of corridor. Architects will note the standards and then work with the client to figure out the customizations they would like. With the web, there are standards too based on user experience findings such as where to place a navigation bar and how to set up a search field. Just like in architecture, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
5. Maintain open and positive designer-client communication: the ‘one-text’ method is one approach architects use: The “One Text” method is a commonly used architectural design approach, where the image of the design is circulated between all involved on the project including on the client side, until the part of the project is agreed on and understood. Each party is able to make comments and change to image until they like it. Roger Fisher and William Ury refer to the one text method from architecture as an approach to collaborating in their best-selling book Getting to Yes (1991). Although a “dev site” for the client to track and monitor development as it occurs is provided by sophisticated digital marketing firms, the One Text method can be used to communicate about points as the process unfolds. Screen shots can be taken using Paint, Adobe Professional or Snag It for example, drawn and written on to communicate, and circulated. Thank you to Ryan Martin of HKS Inc. The advisor architect on this article was Ryan Martin, an Architect and Designer from HKS Inc., HKSinc.com, editor of the HKS Lifestyle and Design blog.