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Design first or code first?

design, development, webdev

4:17 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm working on a fairly complex database website with a friend and I'm going to do the web design portion and help with the coding (rails) while my friend does the skeleton/major features of the site.

I was going to start with site design, but realized, it would be better to just get the skeleton code down before doing the actual design + graphics. Logic being that we'll probably be tweaking the site a lot and don't know what all the features are going to have done for the alpha.

Do you guys think it's a good idea to just wait on the design? I was thinking of story boarding it on paper for now so we know what all the navigation is and where items are suppose to go, but not going to put it on photoshop till we're closer to getting the alpha code.

Is this generally how big sites are done?

5:26 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator bill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I'd say work on the functionality and structure first, and worry about design later.

These posts might be of interest as well:

  • Information Architecture for the Small Site - part 1 [webmasterworld.com]
  • Information Architecture for the Small Site - part 2 [webmasterworld.com]
  • 9:23 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    You need at least wireframes and use cases if the site is more than just static html pages.

    You can't just start coding without at least basic design done for the site.

    4:45 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Big sites are NEVER code-first-design-later...

    Just as you wouldn't start a business without a business plan... I too was a developer for years and can attest to the fact that it's sometimes easier to whip off the code and create flow charts afterwards to appease management however I've realized that major structural changes to a large site after the fact can cost you more time and money than you would expect.

    Yes it takes longer but it's a critical step before any code is written.

    Just my 2 cents.

    5:09 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Are you guys refering to artistic design or overall project design?

    I can imagine that a big project would start with the finished product, then work backwards, acquiring what ever resources are required to make it happen,

    Me, being a very small business start with the coding, to make sre I can do it at all :)

    Otherwise I would have a faboulous design, completely un implementable :)

    7:32 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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    Was just going to ask the same question: define "design"?

    Assuming you are NOT talking about artistic design - I'd like to know how one can code before one designs. I could make a fortune, because somewhere in there, I think, is the key to time travel.

    Of COURSE, one can put in place the "skeleton" using Rails without even knowing the site design. But that requires no coding, takes about 5 minutes, and then what do you do?

    10:53 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    I worked on a large site where we developed the site as the design process was going on (I mean the artistic "look and feel") - we built a wireframe tool that pulled content in from their existing site (this was a redesign/reorg) so that they could play around with the architecture, and do some usability testing. Then when the time came to implement the new look and feel, we basically just themed the wireframe, then generated static pages from it (they wanted a static site).
    12:31 am on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Very interesting thread. Im facing the exact question myself. Because Im not a developer or coder, but more of the content expert, I've chosen to have a developer build out the structure. In my case this will involve a site registration and permissions system integrated with an email system. I'm also having them build out the core functionality enabling user generated content. In parallel, (or at least soon, hopefully) I will work on design (look and feel & information design).

    In fact, I feel I have to work this way because I dont want outside resources knowing too much about the content or idea lest it somehow gets taken. In short I'm having the skeleton built before I put the meat on the bones. Its not a massive project, and I dont see the downside in this approach.


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