About a year ago, a consultancy company made a SWOT analysis for iText. This SWOT analysis was very interesting because it opened our eyes: the facts laid out in the reports were known to us, but somehow we saw them as separate concerns and we missed the overview to choose priorities.
One of the weaknesses is demonstrated in the following slide:
I'm an engineer, not a web designer. In the past, I've built websites for iText. Whenever I needed something new, I started a new website from scratch. As I didn't have much time, none of these websites were ever complete, and more importantly: none of my websites gave a professional impression.
This had to change, so I launced a request asking for web designers to create a new web site for iText. I received many responses, and the quotes ranged from too cheap to be true to so expensive only a major such as Adobe could afford to pay for it.
One of the replies surprised me. I was looking for a company that could write me HTML, CSS and maybe some PHP, but Namahn
answered with a counter-question: Is that what you really need? Wouldn't it make more sense to think about the information architecture first? You can change the way your site looks, but does this solve your problem? Wouldn't you rather build a structure for your site before you think about its appearance?
These unexpected questions were very much to the point, so I decided to work with these guys.
Namahn suggested to use a workshop approach. I visited them in their offices in Brussels, and during the first workshop, we talked about the information architecture. We used sticky notes on a large whiteboard like this:
We discussed about all the necessary parts of the site (and also about stuff that didn't belong on the site). The result was a graph that looked like this:
Using this information architecture, we were able to determine different types of pages. We used this information in a second workshops where we worked on design concepts. These were some of our sketches we made:
These sketches resulted in a maquette for different page designs:
As you can see, this is a good way to organize the content on a page: where do we put which information? Did we cover all the necessary topics?
Once the maquette was approved, Namahn sent me different proposals for a graphical design. Most of them were variations on the same theme, based on what I had asked them. These were two that were already very close to the design I eventually chose:
In a third workshop, I made up my mind about the design I like the most, and I received images for buttons, background, and so on, along with specifications:
It took a while for me to build the site (in hindsight, I should have asked somebody else to do this for me), but I received positive feedback about the result
. Nevertheless, we scheduled a final workshop after the work was done. While building the site, I had to make choices about things that weren't captured during the design process. In some cases, I also had to interpret the design. Namahn reviewed the result and in a final workshop, they gave me a list of suggestions to improve the site using annotated screenshots:
This week I finally found the time to apply all the suggestions. Next week, I'll start working on the content. The important content is already there (obviously), but I have plans to create a new tutorial and (even) better support for the book. Currently, I'm working the TOC of the book; I also have to compare the captions of the images. During the proof reading process some changes were made to the manuscript, so there may be small differences between the site and the printed book.
I enjoyed working with Namahn. We did a good job. I appreciated their flexibility and I was pleasantly surprised about their pricing. Thank you, Namahn
, for a job wel done.