Resources - Book Reviews
Review by Carolyn Wood
Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow that Works
Author(s): Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler
Publisher and date of publication: Peachpit Press/New Riders: Voices that Matter, 2005
Three years have passed since Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler's first edition of Web Redesign: Workflow that Works, and what a difference a few years' experience makes! I'm not referring to the experience gleaned by the authors between editions, but our own - mine and tens of thousands of other web designers and developers. As evidenced by the tales of woe on discussion lists across the internet, informal approaches to website project management have often failed. Anyone who didn't take to heart the advice given in the first edition will now have a second chance to learn from Goto and Cotler with Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow that Works.
Web Redesign 2.0 is not a technical manual, nor is it a how-to book on visual design. The book delineates, step-by-step, how to manage the creation or redesign of a website. It's based on the process methodology developed by Kelly Goto and her award-winning web design/strategic consultancy, gotomedia. With a client list that includes IBM, Apple, and Verizon, they take on huge projects with a sizeable potential for glitches and miscommunication.
The book's process is easily adapted to a wide range of budgets. As the authors say, "We do not put this methodology forth as something set in stone. You are not a dummy (and this is not a dummy book); you'll know when to follow and when to modify."
Throughout, the focus is on creating or redesigning sites that achieve the client's business goals and their customers' "user" goals. This is the overarching theme of the book - not just a workflow that works for the designer/developer, but a workflow for a website that brings out the best in a business and provides the most meaningful experience for the site's visitors.
The methodology is based on a Core Process that involves fives phases: define, structure, interface, building and integrating, launch and beyond. Along with a wealth of practical information, the authors provide helpful questionnaires and worksheets for each phase. Phase One includes a 35-question "Client Survey" and advice on how to analyze the answers.
Also featured are instructions on usability testing, defining business goals, conducting research, creating schedules, time tracking, and preparing a communication (creative) brief. Later chapters include recommendations for style guides, handoff packets, archives, and much more.
While the workflow is the explicit message of the book; respecting yourself as designer/developer is a central, implicit message - one that may ultimately be of even more professional benefit to the reader than the many pages of instructions and worksheets. While it isn't stated directly, the message is clear on every page; Web Redesign 2.0 is infused with a professional attitude that commands respect.
Too often, web designers allow themselves to be relegated to a subordinate position. In contrast, Goto models the behavior and attitude of a consultant/expert rather than that of a contract worker or subordinate. This approach assumes that you deserve to be paid well for your work - all of it. As a professional, your advice and workflow should be respected.
In turn, the book assumes that the designer is earning this respect by bringing a lot to the table. It sets a high standard - the web design team should be well informed about branding, web standards, typography and other visual design concerns, meeting business goals through site design, web traffic analytics, search engine optimization, usability and accessibility.
Is Web Redesign 2.0 useful for the designer of strictly micro-budget sites? Very small budgets usually don't have room to allot 30% to project management, as she recommends, nor do they allow for much client education, research, or usability testing. However, the forms included in the book, the wealth of tips on everything from content management to how to deal with Scope Creep are invaluable for anyone who wants to avoid problems, and very small budgets have more than their share of pitfalls.
If you've already read the first edition of Web Redesign 2.0, this edition is more a refinement than a complete revamping of the earlier book. Much of the original text and workflow continues to hold true and is relatively unchanged. A member of a large team that frequently tweaks and refines its workflow will want the new edition with its improvements.
A new chapter on "Working with Complex Functionality," recognizes the need to include backend programming in the workflow. Other changes include adding a "User View" to Phase Two (defining site structure), moving the creation of an HTML Protosite to an earlier phase, and planning future "interative initiatives" (regular, smaller redesigns and updates) even before the site launches. If misunderstandings with clients are routinely popping up in your business, it's time for a second reading of the book.
For those who haven't read the first edition, Web Redesign 2.0 is an essential addition to any web designer or developer's library, with information that will be useful on a daily basis.
Too many web and software books (and the projects within them) are unattractive and uninspiring in their appearance. Web Redesign 2.0 is a different story: the cover, the typography, the layout all reflect the sensibilities of an author who clearly cares about detail, design, beauty and professionalism - and that's always inspiring.
Carolyn Wood (www.pixelingo.com) is a website designer and copywriter in Portland, Oregon. Also see her interview with Kelly Goto, on the Wise-Women website.