I have a confession to make.
I’m not into details. I’m a big picture guy, one who loves strategy and vision and what-if scenarios. But when it comes to translating ideas into something that can be built, and built correctly, and without too much unnecessary time and expense, I often fall short.
I sometimes tell my developers, I can’t really describe what I want (or don’t want to take the time to do it), so just get something up. Once I see something and use it I know exactly what changes I want to make–but not until. (Usually I show them a few web sites that I love and say, “copy this feature of this site and this feature or design of this site.” But I still leave them far too many decisions to make.)
The result? Wasted time and money.
Playing with a website or with software and having insights into what to change and how to improve it is critical. According to the latest Business 2.0 magazine Jeff Bezos spends Saturday mornings playing with his web site and making a list of 10 things he wants to change. On Monday, he organizes his forces to make the improvements.
I love that the CEO of a $15 billion company spends so much time obsessing about the customer experience.
I also love heads of internet companies who spend time diving into web analytics and who personally write customer surveys to see what their customers are doing and thinking. (Okay, okay … while I have heard that a number of very high-profile CEOs personally use web analytics tools like Omniture I admit that I don’t know of a single CEO who writes customer surveys. While at MyFamily.com I think I personally wrote more than 300 daily surveys about dozens of topics. With 100,000 users logging in every day, we could get 1,000 responses to any question within a few hours. I loved asking my customers questions and getting instant feedback! I also loved organizing my marketing team to have weekly calls with real customers to find out what we could do to improve our service. Once in a board of directors meeting a question came up about how many of our users owned a digital camera and how many planned to buy one in the next year. I quickly posted a survey and by the end of the board meeting we had the results! But I digress….)
My subject today is how to correctly mockup or prototype a web site before sending it to the development team for coding and design.
Two of my closest friends who are also parallel entrepreneurs do very detailed mockups using Powerpoint or Word to design exactly what the pages should look like before sending them on to development. They save thousands of dollars every time they get a web site built, because they do a lot of the upfront design work.
Problem is, both are fairly gifted with design. I’m not. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.
So here’s what I’m going to do from now on. I’m going to follow the advice from 2001 of the great folks at Future Now Inc and use the wireframing approach to web site design.
I can do basic HTML. So without doing an ounce of visual design, I can wireframe a web site’s functionality. I can create the flow showing what links on what pages do what things.
I prefer not to do this by hand, so I’d like to ask you, my reader, if you know of any software tool that will guide you through the wireframe process (as described in the article above) and then quickly generate the HTML code for you.
In the late 80s we used Dan Bricklin’s Demo software to do screen mockups. But this was more design-oriented than just functionality oriented (and it was a DOS program.)
If you know of any tools that I should be aware of, please let me know. (To reply to this post click on the comment link below.) Thanks in advance.