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  • October 8, 2015

Divide and Conquer

You’ve kicked off a website redesign project for a new client. Between negotiating contracts, facilitating a dialogue with stakeholders, and establishing a deep understanding of your client’s content and design priorities, you’ve arrived at a list of pages to represent a journey from old to new. These pages likely represent templates from which a site-wide design system comes to life. Decorative Illustration So you return to your desk, work for weeks and months, and snap all of those pages have been designed and coded, and you’re finally ready to share your work with the client. Right? Not so fast.

No matter your discipline, while tackling the creation of a large-scale, client-facing website, you’ve likely decided to break down your work into more manageable pieces. Dividing and conquering can alleviate the mental tax of undertaking a large assignment, aid in scoping resource demands, and reveal opportunities for smart reuse. Most importantly, it can limit risk to a project. Delivering work in batches introduces intentional pauses during which your client can verify you’re headed in the right direction.

But where do you begin in your design process when faced with a long list of designs to create? Here are five methods for dividing that full list of page types into concrete batches for client consumption.

Use navigation as your guide

Batching pages based on site structure means each delivery considers pages that will live close together on the site. This can be especially successful if your work stands on a solid foundation: an approved sitemap. Batching pages by where they live on the site will enable you to pace the density of content across levels of the site—from broad landing pages to long-form depths. It will also convey to clients where there are opportunities for content reuse: how you can surface snippets and metadata from deeper pages. You’ll be able to surface patterns for wow-moments while still representing the relative composition of the site. And if a particular group “owns” a section of the website, all the better, as designing along navigational paths can smoothen the review period for those stakeholders.

Move with a user’s flow

Users don’t necessarily follow conventional site structure to find the information they’ve sought out. If your client’s website requires users to complete multiple tasks or speaks to a variety of audiences with different priorities, then you could consider batching pages as they fall within particular user flows. In a shopping experience, you could demonstrate the steps a user would take to complete a purchase. In an educational context, you could show how a user might sift through requirements and search for courses before signing up. Identifying conversion points and potential paths to get there reiterates to clients that you’re considering audience needs across the experience. With each batch, you’ll also be creating a set of pages that can be tested early and independent of the full site.

Follow a single theme

Organizing your pages across shared underlying themes can reinforce larger strategic redesign goals with each delivery. This shared theme could support a topic, marketing message or mission, or even a user-interface pattern. Touch on all the pages that explain a complex concept. Demonstrate how your client is an innovator in a space, or is committed to building community. Illustrate the different ways users can filter and search on the new site. Thematic batches build connections between pages that may live separately on the site and even be managed by different editors, ensuring both you and your clients address important ideas holistically.

Prioritize content entry

Hopefully, much of your client’s existing content—with some tweaks in structure and messaging—will be repurposed for your new designs. If you’re building a new content management system as part of the engagement, at some point, hundreds to thousands of pages of content will need to migrate from the old system to the new. This move can often be a source of anxiety for clients. “How early can we get into the CMS?” the team will ask. To make this endeavor as frictionless as possible, you can start by batching your page designs to reflect a suggested order for content production and entry. If the company’s site boasts over 300 employee profiles and 500 press releases, prioritize these large-ticket items to get the ball rolling.

Pinpoint vague spots

Lastly, while batching deliveries can limit risk to a project, elevating pages for which there’s no clear vision—internally or client-side—can also jump ahead of future delays. While it may feel like you’re throwing something out there just to see if it will stick, this approach to batching enables you to vet blue sky ideas and define technology requirements early in the process. You’ll devote a large effort to nailing down the user experience, but also allow liberal time for iterating while you address more straightforward pages.

These methods aren’t mutually exclusive. Across different projects and deliverables, you can experiment with mixing and matching multiple approaches. Your approach to batching merits the consideration you give the designs themselves. Ultimately, a successful batch is a thoughtful one.

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