of presentations, whether for commerce or communication, web or PowerPoint,
has three major phases: concept, realization, and refinement. I will
describe each phase in terms of the actions taken in a designer-client
I will also make an effort to explain how much time is spent on
each phase, which translates to cost regardless of whether you are
designing for yourself or paying someone else to do it for you.
Phase 1 - Concept
A half step before phase one, you have
either an idea or a product you want to present in a fashion that makes people
take notice. You know what you'll need to say but not how to say it. The key
here is to come up with two interlocking frameworks. One lays out the
logical and logistical flow of information. The other describes the aesthetic
elements you will
use to reinforce the interplay of continuity and contrast throughout
your presentation. The first framework becomes your outline and architecture.
The second becomes your design theme, including logos, color scheme, and
accents. Note that the "look and feel" of a presentation, something
many designers like to talk about, is a product of the interaction between
Time spent on the concept phase is often, but
not always, time saved later. It may be painful to pay for a phase that doesn't
directly produce your presentation, but a project of any sophistication will
benefit from careful advanced planning. For budget and expedience, the designer
the concept phase either in terms of time or pre-visualizations of the outline
and design theme.
Phase 2 - Realization
At the end of the concept phase, you have
some idea of what content and design elements you will need. Ideally, you
have some rough sketches
or mock-ups of those elements. Now you have to give them full breathing
life. Start with the graphics that will appear on every page. These
include small accents or backgrounds and textures. However, principle
among your graphic elements is your navigation device (in the case of web
pages). Laying out the mechanism and flow of navigation first will help
you to refine your content later. The realization phase is also the one
for obtaining and editing images. Some people prefer to fit images into
pages after the navigation structure is in place. Other people use spontaneous
inspiration from their images to help them design the site's look and
feel. The former method is the most efficient, whereas the latter method
can produce a visually captivating presentation at the risk of completely
The client and the designer should remember that
the realization phase can be as much a revision of the concept as it is an execution.
Time can be saved if the client is very clear about which elements of the concept
malleable. Also, revision of an entire site can be time consuming. A good guideline
is to consider three finished pages connected by navigation elements first. Once
these pass muster, the site can be completed quickly.
Phase 3 - Refinement
Refinement of a completed presentation is like
the first few weeks in a pair of leather shoes. In the case of PowerPoint presentations,
you will want to make sure the rhythm of your speech is complimented by the design
of the slides. Do your jokes work? Do the graphics help the audience know when
you are moving forward and when you are recalling earlier points? Don't be afraid
to let the slides tell you when you're trying to say too much. Often, it is a
lame slide that gives away the weakness of a point you could just as well cut
from your presentation.
In the case of websites, nothing but nothing gets
you better feedback than a test audience. Let your friends or colleagues see
the site and move through it. Use logs to see which pages people visit and for
how long. For sites with a large budget, use focus groups and interview
participants. Technical glitches are easy to fix. The real challenge
is to refine the site until visitors find it both comfortable and worthwhile.
Only then are you communicating effectively.
me to discuss your next web project.
Hanover, New Hampshire