on December 3, 2001
In just 253 thinly-laden pages, "Web Redesign: Workflow that Works" dodges the special challenges of redesigning Web sites, and ranges well beyond Web designers' workflow issues. How, then, does this newest addition to the Web site builder's library justify your time and its price?
The answer is that "Web Redesign" teaches designers to mix discipline with all that painful designer hipness. With its semi-gloss pages, landscape format, copious illustrations and liberal use of Jan Tschichold's elegant Garamond typeface variant Sabon, this volume entices lovers of design. Then the text content slips in, all rational and process-oriented, to explain soberly that Web design must push beyond pretty, that it demands documentation and budgets and schedules and testing or the whole damn glorious enterprise will fall in a heap. Authors Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler, old-school Web designers themselves, enthuse over funky skating sites while earnestly explaining that such sites need project plans. Screenshots of budget spreadsheets sit next to screenshots of sites with fancy menus and lots of designer-illegible tiny grey text.
Does all the rationality sound a little familiar? It should, these days. "Web Redesign" spends much of its time in territory already authoritatively mapped by 2000's volume from Ashley Friedlein, "Web Project Management". Friedlein's book possesses all the flair promised in its title, but its publication marked a new phase for the discipline of Web site development. "Web Redesign" echoes most of what Friedlein has said, with less depth and more glamour.
Like Friedlein's book, "Web Redesign" focuses on deliverables - tasks that you can list, tasks that you can celebrate completing, and tasks whose completion entitles you to ask the client for money. Like Friedlein's book, it broadly adopts software's longstanding systems development life cycle, which moves from project definition to detailed planning, to build, to implementation, and finally to system support. Like Friedlein's book, it accepts the challenge of gathering Web site content, a challenge alien to traditional software development.
Unlike Friedlein's book, however, "Web Redesign" offers a swag of basic site design techniques, from audience profiling to establishing file-naming conventions. Indeed, it reads as its authors' accumulation of notes on how to get sites out the door. It compensates for a wooden prose style by enlisting sidebars, diagrams, worksheets, sketches, summaries, tips and just about anything else that might keep the reader engaged.
This book also grants usability testing a key role in site development: its 18-page user testing summary, laced liberally with the thoughts of Jakob Nielsen, ranks with the best.
Don't buy it just because you're planning a site redesign, though. Barely a sentence in it does not apply equally to new sites. A serious book on redesign would show readers how to evaluate the performance of existing and new sites, not dismiss evaluation in three paragraphs. A serious book about site redesigns would place usability testing right at the start of the redesign process, not shove it carelessly into the second-last chapter. A serious book about site redesigns would discuss the sheer riskiness of a once-off redesign, and tackle the tough challenges of designing for continual change and expansion. But Goto and Cotler show little expertise or interest in evaluation, maintainable design or evolutionary improvement - and with that "Web Redesign" title they simply lie outright.
Forgive that lie. Goto and Cotler are at least spreading the word that Web site creation is a discipline. The combination of Friedlein's "Web Project Management" and Nielsen's "Designing Web Usability" (...) massively outguns the Goto & Cotler volume. If you can buy those two and read them, you should. But if you want to read - or want to hand a designer - one pretty volume, then "Web Redesign" is your first choice.
on September 5, 2001
The Web has become so pervasive that redesigns are now more common than new designs. In fact, nearly all Fortune 500 companies now have Web sites (those that don't shall remain nameless), so redesigns are now the norm. This book is the first to address the Web site redesign process.
The book codifies the workflow work co-author Kelly Goto lectured extensively on at Thunder Lizard conferences since 1997. After one of her sold-out lectures on Web design workflow one of her loyal fans would invariably ask, "When are you going to write a book?" This book, and its accompanying Web site, is the answer.
Anyone can design (or redesign) a Web site. But to do it on time and on budget requires a disciplined approach. This book logically lays out that process. The authors concentrate on the "Core Process" common to all Web site design and redesign projects. By following their methodology, you can raise your chance of success for your next design project.
"The idea is to put everybody - the client and team alike - in the same frame of reference, using the same terminology, following the same path," says Emily Cotler, co-author of the book. "The Core Process that we developed can apply to any sized web team, with any sized budget, whether an initial design or a redesign."
Primarily aimed at project managers, this book is designed to streamline the redesign process for everyone involved. Whether your budget is $10K or $1M, the Core Process still applies. What is the Core Process you ask? It's a five phase roadmap of the workflow required for redesigning a Web site. The phases are:
* Defining the Project
* Developing Site Structure
* Visual Design & Testing
* Production & QA
* Launch & Beyond
The book follows this outline, expanding on each topic with detailed action items for each phase (discovery, clarification, planning for phase 1). The wonderful thing about this book is the synergistic effect it has with its companion Web site, which offers free on-line worksheets you can use in your own redesign projects. Client questionnaires, meta tag builders, and budget spreadsheets are all included and discussed extensively in the book. You save money by not buying an out of date CD-ROM, and everyone wins by having access to these battle-tested workflow worksheets.
Although only 253 wide pages, the book is packed with useful information. The authors liberally sprinkle the text with site redesign examples, illustrations, flowcharts, and checklists. Plus they feature full-page in context contributions from Web experts like Nielsen, Siegel, Veen, Lynda, and Zeldman (who all happen to be New Riders authors).
The advice is good, though marred by some minor technical errors. Gather are much data as you can beforehand, get client signoff on key documents, perform a competitive analysis and usability testing. However, I found one common misconception, the latest Flash plug-in is not supported by 96% of current browsers, as stated on page 124. It's Flash 3 that has a 96% penetration rate. Flash 5 has less than 80% penetration worldwide, and less than 70% in the US, according to a survey by NPD research for Macromedia.
To their credit the authors are collecting these types of errors and listing them on the accompanying Web site.
I wish I had this book when I was working at a Web design firm in the '90s. It would have saved us all a lot of headaches.
on June 2, 2002
I was really impressed with Web Redesign: Workflow That Works mainly because it covers practical ways to manage projects. As an individual devleoper with a small firm, their suggestions and forms have proven to be exceptionally helpful.
It didn't go heavily into development or code but if I want that, I'll pick up a book on that subject. What the authors did do was convey simple, practical and infinately usable information on web site design projects.
I thank you and, no doubt, my clients thank you as well.