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Two key steps for successful design and development project collaboration

Here at Indianapolis website design firm TBH Creative we have resources for all aspects of website development from discovery through design; from application development to website buildout. From time to time we run into a situation where our client is already tied to a development group and is just coming to us for our design expertise (or vice-versa).

How can you help separate design and development teams work well together? 

Here are two lessons from TBH Creative's experience.

1. Clear communication from the start

It's important to make sure that everyone has the same expectations from the very beginning. We recommend setting up a meeting to discuss:
  • What format of files does the developer need from the designer?
  • How will those files be transferred?
  • When will the designer have access to the pages for testing and review?
  • How will design tweaks and revisions be handled during testing?
  • What is the process when the developer has suggestions on the design related to performance or simplification in development time?
  • How closely will the final website match the design compositions?
Real life example: IUPPI
The Indiana University Public Policy Institute came to TBH Creative as they were undergoing a significant brand shift. In order to best communicate their expertise and services, they wanted to completely redesign their website making it easier to access their extensive database and presenting a more professional look.

The database is the core of the IUPPI website and is managed by a university development team. As part of Indiana University, the Institute was tied to this application development resource. The challenge was for TBH to work within the university constraints while also meeting the Institute's marketing challenges. TBH Creative worked on the strategy, design and created the HTML/CSS/JQuery and passed to the IU database team. They took the page code and connected to a robust CMS and database for easy client management.

We were successful because we started working with the database team from the very first meeting. They were in the loop long before their services were needed so they knew exactly what was coming and how to prepare their team. "Having the developers involved in the design presentation meetings was a huge help," notes Project Manager Barb Ruess. "They could see what features we were proposing, make recommendations on how to make those work seamlessly, and eliminate any surprises through the process."

Check out the final result:

2. Present a unified front

It's likely that you know ahead of time that you'll be working together. Make a point of contacting your new partner on this project and schedule a meeting before you meet with the client. Things to discuss at this initial meeting:
  • Division of responsibilities: It's important to be clear to each other and the client so everyone knows who is responsible for key components. Discuss the details for transferring files, reviewing, feedback, scopes of work, etc.
  • Best way to communicate: Will you set up a shared Google Drive? Plan on weekly email updates? Talk on the phone every week? We also recommend you plan for "internal" reviews before showing the client so that the client never sees any differences of opinions and you present a more professional image.
  • Client knowledge: What do you each know about the client and the project? If you're going to be working together, you don't want to leave your partner in the dark (or be the one that's left behind). Share what you know - especially if you've worked with the client before. It will make for a better collaboration.
Real life example: Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township
Sometimes the client finds a strong development group and that team seeks out TBH Creative as a design partner. Such was the case with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. MSD Lawrence came to BitWise to develop a robust, flexible website that could accommodate all of their schools and offices - a sum total of 21 different websites. BitWise knew that the design of these websites would be just as important as their development so that they presented a unified front to users. That's when they called TBH Creative.

Bjorn Carlson, Business Development Manager at BitWise notes, “The MSD of Lawrence Township project was a unique collaboration between the school district, the technical and functional expertise of BitWise Solutions, and the user experience and web design capabilities of TBH Creative. While these scenarios can often present distinct challenges, the partnership between BitWise and TBH Creative to deliver an outstanding product for the school district of Lawrence Township proved to be very fruitful.  With an extremely well-received and successful end result, Tatum and her crew really demonstrated why TBH Creative is a thought leader in the web design space.”

BitWise and TBH Creative came into the project as partners from the very beginning. They clearly understand each other's role in the project and were able to develop a work schedule and divide responsibilities to accomplish the client's goals.

Learn more about this project: A case study for flexible, functional design. 

Collaboration between designers and developers can be a positive learning experience where everyone is happy at the end of the day. What happens when it doesn't go quite so smoothly? Stay tuned next month when we reveal some lessons learned from projects that could have been handled better.

The pros and cons of hero graphics

Designing a website that will make an impact on its viewers can be tricky. There are lots of ways to capture attention and engage your audience, and choosing the best method for your website can be a challenge. One increasingly popular attention-grabber is the hero graphic.

A hero graphic is an introductory-type area of a website that generally consists of a large banner image accompanied by a minimal amount of text and/or a call to action. This typically is the first thing a user encounters on the homepage of a website.

A case study for flexible, functional web design: Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

What do you do when you have 21 different websites and want them all to have a common appearance but a distinct identity? That was the challenge that the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township brought to TBH Creative and their partner on this project, BitWise Solutions.

The MSD of Lawrence Township consists of four early learning centers, 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and a Center for Innovation & Technology. Each of those school facilities needs its own website - and the district needs its own website that ties them all together. "The real challenge wasn't coming up with a consistent look and feel that best represents their image," notes TBH Creative President Tatum Hindman. "The real challenge was keeping that consistent look and feel while also giving each facility the opportunity to use their own pictures, logos and school colors."

Top places your business should be on Social Media

Social media has been a fantastic marketing tool for small-medium size businesses. Customer relations, marketing, public relations and even market research can all be done on these free social networks. As social media channels explode in growth, you might be asking yourself: "Which social media channels should my business be using?" 

The answer varies a bit depending on your industry. A training company should certainly be posting videos on YouTube but may not fit the demographic on Pinterest. A jewelry designer should be on YouTube and Pinterest but may not see good results from Twitter. The bottom line is that you need to pick 1-3 social media channels that fit your marketing communications goals. It is far better to be smart and strategic - to do social media well - than it is to scatter yourself on every hot social media site and hope for the best.

Using web analytics to improve your website

Man viewing analytics
So you have analytics set-up for your site - but now what? Consistently evaluating your analytics data will help you to better understand your website’s audience and adjust your marketing strategies and objectives as necessary. Analytics reports provide valuable insight into a website’s strengths and weaknesses, and can help you to pinpoint the areas on your website that could benefit from improvements.

This article will help get you started analyzing your website's data by providing interpretations of common analytics statistics, such as: audience demographic, returning visitors, traffic sources, keywords, page views, visit duration, exit rate, and user technology. It will focus specifically on Google Analytics, one of the most popular choices for web analytics.

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