From strategy 6 you understand to spend most of your time on the “What” vs “How to” which lead us on to strategy number 7 which is to employ progressive refinement in your website development. This starts off with the understanding that really, your site’s never going to be done. There’s always going to be something that you would like to do to it, something that you would like to change, it’s always going to be an evolving process anyway. And since it’s always going to be evolving, as a practical matter, you are refining it progressively.
Begin with a Skeleton of Pages
I recommend that you build a skeleton that matches your plan and that means essentially, setting up the pages. If you watch my course again, you’ll see that I create the pages a long time before I ever put any content in them. In fact, I create my pages and sometimes put dummy content in them and give them base level titles but then as the site progresses, as I refine the site, I go back in and I change those titles to be more appropriate or something that I think is better.
I start off with my basic plan and then I build those pages. Once I’ve got my basic plan in place, then I start adding content to them. Something that can be very useful as you’re designing a site is to create placeholder elements for things that are not completed. Actually, I’m going to use my friend Tom as an example yet again.
Example of Progressive Refinement – Using Dummy Content
Julie Cloutier has done this design for Tom and this is the basic layout of his home page. As we go on to actually creating this for him, we find that we don’t really have the artwork yet for the sliders. So what we’ll do is to take some artwork and we’ll create a slide out of dummy content so that we can construct the slider, get it on the home page and get it configured correctly.
The dummy content is going to get replaced with real content as we work our way through it but for the time being it allows us to set up parts of the site we wouldn’t otherwise be able to add. That’s an example of progressive refinement. What we’ve done is we’ve set up the space for the slider, we’ve put the slider in, installed the slider and we built some dummy slides so that it fits in the space while we are waiting for the actual artwork to actually build the slides.
Example of Progressive Refinement – Publishing Rough Drafts
Progressive refinement also means just adding rough drafts of your content to your pages and initial posts. If you are not creating your content directly in the text editor of the page or post but instead are using Word or Google Docs, go ahead and add that text before you’ve finished proofreading it and before it’s all perfect to those pages or posts.
You just move the text in the draft stage over to the actual page where it’s going to belong. There’s a lot of design work that you may need placeholder text for anyway. So I strongly recommend that you put your draft version of your text in the page and publish the page. Don’t save it as a draft but recognize that it is a rough draft and you’re going to come back in and change it later inside the editor.
This is another method of progressive refinement where the actual content may be in its rough draft form but it is nevertheless filling up the pages so that you see what a page full of text is going to look like. It also gives you the ability to come back in and tweak it while it still does double duty of filling up a page.
It also gets you used to the idea of starting off with a skeleton and gradually adding the flesh into that skeleton. As you’re doing that progressive refinement you can see how graphic elements fit in, unless you’ve got a design like Julie’s where it’s already designed all the way down to the gnat’s eyebrow and so doesn’t actually need any refinement any longer.
My Recommendation on Graphic Elements
I recommend that you just get your graphic design elements to about 80% and let let your ideas percolate. So maybe you’ve got the right font size but maybe it’s not the perfect color and you want to go back in and change that color but you just get your main graphic elements to about 80% and let it sit there while you’re working on the rest of your site.
If you get used to thinking about your site as always in a state of development, then you’re going to get your site done sooner. You’ll get it working on your behalf sooner if you employ progressive refinement because you’re not going to have the mindset that says “it’s got to be perfect before I can publish my site”.
We’re going to talk about perfection in just a minute. Anyway, employ progressive refinement where you’ll build your website in stages; layout a skeleton and gradually add flesh to the skeleton until it’s essentially completed.