I've been redesigning my blog for a while now and one thing in particular struck me as quite remarkable. Since I first launched this blog a year ago a lot of things had changed. In that measly year many additions and tweaks were made to the original blog. Many of them too small to notice, some of them with a bigger impact (like the preview button on the comment form). While this was a natural evolution, I ran into a little article that explained why it was in fact not so natural at all.
My Everyday Work Life
All things considered, I should have realized this method of working wasn't a very natural approach (yet). At work, I often play with designs that get implemented and that I see very little of the next couple of months, even years. Websites are often launched with a big bang, contrasting heavily with the outdated versions made several years earlier. Websites seem to evolve in big steps and heavy launches, rather than small updates and welcome weekly tweaks.
There are a few projects that require us to update the site on a regular basis, but they are by all means exceptions to the rule. It never struck me as strange before, but in fact it is a very unnatural way to approach a project.
I am hardly the first to mention this, but the launch of a website should really be the beginning, not the end. Once a new site is live, statistics can be gathered, user polls can be held and improvements can be made. And at regular intervals. No site is perfect when launched, the internet is ever changing, so why do we often cling to sites that are old and out of date?
This holds true for all levels of web design. The visual design itself can be tweaked and upgraded in little steps, information architecture can be adapted and of course the content itself should be kept up to date. This has the added benefit that users can quickly adapt to these small changes, rather than be thrown into the depths with every new overhaul (which usually creates a whole new site experience).
Working like this is called iterative design and even though this will appear to be a pretty natural method of working (especially for people maintaining their own site), it is actually a big hurdle for large sites and companies, who seems very much set on big launches and major overhauls.
Thinking In Circles
It might take some time before people will start adapting to this way of working, but no effort should be spared in speeding things up a little. Next time you take on a new project, try to ready your clients for a more iterative approach and think of a plan that extends the period after the launch of the site. It will benefit your site and your visitors and you'll be surprised how big a difference can be made by adding small tweaks on a regular basis.