Design or Develop First

Should a web application be designed first, or developed first?

It’s obvious that designers and programmers feel differently about this.

Take this perspective, for example (all quotes from comments here):

As a programmer, I produce ugly-but-functional designs for the HTML monkeys to tart up however they like. Trying to do it the other way around is a recipe for disaster.

And this one:

I would say both things have to be done in parallel rather than first coding and then designing or the reverse way. The final product has to be clear enough so that the designer can work on how to present it while the coder is implementing each functionality.

What do you think? Can it be both ways? With our web application that we are building, our process has been to design everything in Photoshop before writing a single line of code. This may sound backwards to some people, but it has allowed us to see what the user will see, and show people our application.

Our web app would not have been as cool as it is if we hadn’t started with design.

There have been a large number of design improvements, and functionality improvements that have been made as a result of seeing something designed.

It’s quite possible that many people think of the design as purely aesthetic, when I see both the beauty side, as well as functionality and ease of use.

What do you think? In your projects, do you begin with code or with design?

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Internationalize Web Apps: Yes or No?

For our web application one of the things we want to do is provide international support. Languages and support for overseas. We would probably focus on South America or European countries first, and then expand from there. It would be something we do after gaining some momentum.

I wrote about this after I returned from Brasil, and observed the huge market down there. I couldn’t figure out why more companies don’t do this.


A weekend spent laboring

I hope everybody had a great labor day weekend! Here at Tornado, it was all labor and very little play. If you call building your own web app labor. This weekend we made progress on several fronts.

  • Firstly, we have the beginnings of a marketing site. It’s only a design concept at this point, however it’s something and it looks great. Realizing that we really need a copywriter at some point.
  • I installed WordPress for our product blog. We’re going to be running our blog on a completely separate domain name for search engine reasons. We are going to begin posting to that blog now, but not tell anybody about it until the beta begins. We were able to pick up a cool domain name that has some good keywords in it.
  • Spent some time working on the logo type treatment.
  • More time was spent tweaking the actual application design. There are several key sections we still need to work on.
  • We decided to simplify our sign up process and have just a few key things (username, password, name, email) required in order to get an account. Then in the settings section, you’ll be able to further customize the application. We have this currently drawn out on our whiteboard and we need to move it into the product design.
  • We need to begin formulating the marketing plan on paper — right now, it’s all in our heads. We’re going to be approaching marketing in a grassroots sort of way, at least, that’s the initial plan.


Click here for demo

Have you noticed that fewer and fewer web applications have demo accounts set up? Instead they have a nice short tour, and a drop-dead simple sign up process.

We were pondering whether we should have a demo or not for our upcoming web application. If we were to provide a demo account, people could click once and immediately be taken to a demo they can interact with. On the flip side, this would potentially lower the number of people that actually sign up for our product.

The free sign up idea works great, especially if you have a free version of your product.

I wonder how many thousands of people have signed up for Basecamp accounts, only to abandon them moments after logging in. It’s great for boosting your customer count.

Being able to say you have 500,000 customers is impressive (source: Basecamp homepage). I just wonder how many of those customers actually pay.