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Designing Backwards

I finally got around to reading the 211th issue of A List Apart and I was really impressed with Derek Powazek’s article titled “Home Page Goals.” In the article he gives a list of 4 main goals that every home page has and how to accomplish them. These goals are extremely important in order to design sites that are user-friendly while effectively communicating who you are and what you do. Much of the information is common knowledge but it’s always nice to see it written and think “yeah, that make sense!” The part that I found the most interesting was at the very beginning. He says:

“When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page.”

I’m currently working on a few new designs but I’m going to change the way I do this. I’m going to do like he does and start with the smallest, deepest element and then work backwards until I get to the homepage. Later in the article he describes why he designs backwards.

“I do this because each container needs to adequately set expectations for what it contains. If the home page says one thing, but the internal pages say another, that’s going to lead to a user-experience failure.

This also means that, by the time work begins on the home page, there’s a lot of momentum going already. And any lingering anxiety is going to come to a head—on the home page.”

I can’t believe I’m just now starting to design backwards. This makes so much sense to me after reading the article and I wish I had done this with other sites I have built. Many times I will design the home page for a site and write the code for it but every other page in the site is a little bit different from the home page and so the code needs to be a little bit different. If I start with the more complicated pages and work my way to the home page there won’t be as much confusing code and there will be a much more user-friendly design

Do you design backwards too? Am I the last person to start designing this way?

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