A Process to the Pixels [Digital]

Anthony McCausland Design

Much of my time these days is spent managing and implementing digital projects. These projects generally result in producing pixels – and these pixels are ultimately what people see. So it’s no surprise that most people think design is all about the pretty pixels. But, design runs much deeper…

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Any digital project has lots of moving parts, many pieces to the puzzle, and it’s no wonder that most organisations get stuck along the way, and projects almost inevitably take far longer than ever planned. I see this every day with clients, agencies, and I’m certainly not immune to this either. It’s probably a human condition to plan projects with optimism. I’d say it’s ok to plan with optimism, but I’d caution optimism unless you back your project with a solid process.

Plans. Process. Pixels.

Generally people are ok at making plans. We (should) all know that making a plan is a critical part to the success of any project, but the best plan in the world, without a solid process behind it, generally only leads to frustration and delays.

Process – This is where so many come unstuck. When it comes to process, many people struggle and have little idea about how to create a consistent, effective and streamlined process. It staggers me to see professionals still managing complex projects through emails, or relying on scribbled notes, or just simply flying by the seat of their pants trying to juggle many moving parts across multiple projects without process or effective systems. I see them shifting focus, changing the goal posts, starting fires, putting out fires and possibly still getting things done, but ultimately delivering half-baked results.

Plans are a good start, but process is crucial.

I recently worked on a project to re-design and develop a new ecommerce platform for a client. They knew they needed some design execution to make the pixels look nice – this is what they originally came to me for, and of course I did deliver that in the end. However, I don’t work on pixels until I have the plan, and the I can’t deliver the pixels unless I go through my process.

...the actual design process was one of the best and smoothest parts of the process, thanks in large part to your help.

Ian C, Matthias Media.

It is not uncommon for clients to be reluctant to spend the time & money on all this planning & design thinking process before working on the pixels. It's because they don’t (yet) understand the value of the planning and the process. For this project, I did end up delivering a tailored process to first create the design plans & strategy, and then I executed the design to produce some nice pixels.

Turned out the client was pleasantly surprised by the design process which ended up being ‘...the best and smoothest parts of the process’. I was obviously happy he was happy, but I wasn’t surprised that the design part, my part, was smoother than others… I know planning and process pays off every time.

This is not unique feedback. On another recent website design & development project, I received the following text from the client:

Looks fantastic! Wishing we’d used a similar approach…
Steven H

He could see the value of the process we went through, and was wishing he’d had used a similar ‘design first’ approach on a startup venture he is running.

My passion is the pixels, but I also love the process, because in the end, a good process results in more meaningful and beautiful pixels.

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Anthony is the founder and Director of Elevate. After family, faith, and business, he loves to surf, play soccer and take a decent photo.