User Centered Design is an established, industry best-practice for designing interfaces from the perspective of the users who will be using it. On the surface of things, this seems like a pretty obvious idea, but you’d be surprised how many websites are built in accordance with what the business’ key stakeholders decide should be on there…
UCD is a design methodology that you’ll find in use at some of the largest agencies on the planet, and indeed, for a comprehensive UCD engagement, you could be looking at hundreds of billable hours just to get a wireframe of your website mocked up. There is a tremendous amount of value in this process, but a full scale UCD engagement is anything but lightweight.
What we have done is to take the juiciest bits of UCD, the parts that provide the most real world value to you as a client, and boil them down into something that is affordable to small business clients such as yourself. It’s not a full-blooded UCD engagement, but it provides an elegant process via which to identify the sorts of users that are using your website, and what it is they’re looking for. This research then goes on to act as the guide for how we layout your website during the design phase of the project, ensuring that when your website is developed and deployed into the real world, its primary focus is on getting your customers to the information they need as seamlessly as possible. Simple, really!
One of the biggest mistakes that smaller agencies make is not paying enough attention to project management. If you have a great solo developer, he can manage a single project between himself and the client just fine, but as soon as you start to scale even slightly beyond that one-on-one relationship, then without a clear, established process for exactly how you’re going to manage projects, then the chances of completing them on time and within budget are anyone’s guess.
This is one of the many reasons we have adopted the Agile Scrum project management methodology for use around here at Assembler. Scrum allows us to wrangle the endless shifting sea of complexity that is a web development project and give it a structure that you as the client can control, and we as the developers can deliver. For clients who have never been a part of a Scrum project before, bringing them on board for the first time is an exciting time, as they get to see how Scrum works and why it is such a hugely popular methodology for developing software.
One of the challenges facing software developers is that, without systems in place, managing the technical logistics of the work we produce can get out of hand very easily.
Continuous Delivery is a concept that matches very well with Agile Scrum. It is an engineering approach in which work is delivered in short, repeatable cycles, with frequent deployments of changes to production.
In order to make this a reality, we take advantage of a series of “DevOps” systems that allow us to carefully control the entire software development workflow, from the developers’ laptops right through to the production servers.
In the bad old days, developers would all be working on the same files, if one dev wanted to make a change, he’d have to make sure no other devs were working on the same file. Deploying the site was a matter of “FTPing” the files up to the server, oftentimes overwriting changes that another developer had already deployed…
Today, we use a fully managed DevOps toolchain that makes sure that every single line of code is tracked, reviewed and controlled. Deploying your website is entirely automated, eliminating mistakes and saving countless hours of manual effort.
Because of the complexity of these DevOps systems, most agencies out there still don’t use them. Where our workflow is efficient, controlled and automated, a lot of agencies out there today are still doing it like the bad old days, and mistakes are common.
We’re happy to discuss and even demonstrate our Continuous Development workflow to our customers. Seeing how it works in action may be deeply technical, but it will give you an understanding of why it’s so important, and why it enables us to deliver robust, reliable and consistent work, day in and day out.