There’s an old saying in advertising about it being correct 50% of the time—people just aren’t sure which 50%. In the print world (which is just about dead), they’ve got one shot to get the content and design right before it hits the presses. When I think online I consider it to be the thing that has an infinite life. You can always update it. The only time something online ceases to be alive is when someone forgets to renew a domain name or the files are accidentally destroyed.
Another way of looking at things is under the assumption that you know exactly what you want to do, hence you design it and put it out in the world and expect everyone to get what you trying to say (maybe your selling something, maybe communicating a broader message). If there’s a decent budget you might try two or three concepts and throw it into the wild with a group of people that represent the people you’re trying to reach. If one of the solutions tests higher than the other concepts, chances are you’re more likely to hit a sweet spot in theory. But do focus groups really work?
Another concept to consider: where you start and where you finish are not going to be close to the same thing. What if you started with your problem, question or idea but only designed 51% of its potential and let it loose in the wild? The design acts as if it’s finished yet really has just started. As issues arise and things need to be fixed, information is collected and in short order a new design version is built upon. And that cycle continues down the line… While I’m oversimplifying things, that’s to some degree what Agile Design is about. Typically that’s how new versions of software are created and how some start-ups work. It’s by no means a perfect process and there’s a lot of exploration still to be done. But what if more traditional design and advertising agencies approached their products (I use that word loosely as the form can be just about anything) as something to be released after 51% and were iterated upon during it’s life cycle. Do they have a better chance of being more successful in the long run as opposed to releasing something and never thinking about it again?
Like I said Agile isn’t perfect and to emphasize that point here’s something I re-tweeted at a UX NYC Book Club talk: “RT @askrom: Weakness with Agile? Propensity to produce half-implemented features. When you get hundreds of em, profound suckyness #uxbcnyc”. But let’s just say that there’s more focus to the features and there isn’t much suckyness. You throw a lot of design onto the live wall and observe how people are really drawn into something or how they run away. Adjustments can be made.
If online/digital doesn’t have the same fixed points as the print model of sending something out because of the mechanization of the press and never to be returned to and fixed; why not change the process up so ideas can grow in a real way? By the time the design is really completed it will be 100% right.