Behind the scenes of Homed
To give you a brief understanding of what Homed is before I get into the nitty gritty of what I learned throughout this project, Colleen O’Hanlon the editor of Homed has summed it up perfectly:
Our vision for Homed was to create an entirely new space on Stuff where you, our audience, could find information and inspiration — whatever your style, whatever your budget — and indulge in some retail therapy along the way.
We think Homed has all the beauty and substance of a coffee table book, but without the resulting clutter and inevitable dusting duties, and I think we can all agree that the less of that we have the better
In the mix of our rich, deep content are thousands of photos of fantastic New Zealand homes to sigh over, great stories to give you ideas and motivation, and videos of no-fuss DIY projects that are great for any day, not just rainy ones
- Colleen O’Hanlon
So all up Homed is a part of Stuff that lives under the ‘life and style’ section. This project took around half a year to produce from scratch with an external vendor brought in to develop the site.
Now let me tell you, this was one of the biggest, hardest, yet most rewarding projects I have had the chance to work on so far in my design career. This was a brand new way of thinking for Stuff. This section was our first fully responsive web page to be developed within our platform.
The most valuable learnings from this project:
- - Communication
- - Design reviews
- - Managing expectations vs reality
The design/UX team was based in Wellington and the development team was located up in Auckland. This was my first time working in a team where the location was divided and I suppose this is really the start of when the communication started to fail. Not having the chance to go sit down with a developer and let them know what you think or provide them with quick feedback became very difficult, so all I can say is thank goodness for Google Hangout!
Developers really do speak in an entirely different language, and I think sometimes they forget that the whole world does not completely understand what they are trying to say or explain. We managed to improve this as the months passed by making sure everyone understood what was being talked about at the start of meetings and talking in a way that non-developers could understand. This included no jargon words!
Design reviews also took a lot of development to tailor them to what work for our team. We were using InVision for the majority of the project which was great at first but it became more confusing the more complicated our designs got. The comments became jumbled as the design kept changing and not everything was getting correctly documented. The solution we felt worked best for our team was designing, developing and fixing problems on the fly from working code. This involved sitting down with the developer on google hangout and talked through each change one by one and they were able to update the site in real time, which meant we could be confident that our designs were being implemented correctly. This was a lot more productive than keeping track of a million different changes and InVision comments.
Managing the expectations and realities was one of my hardest challenges because we were dealing with multiple parts of the business who all had different ideas and requirements for the project. Editorials focus was on producing beautiful content, advertisings main goal was to keep up their revenue expectations and one of the businesses objectives was to integrate e-commerce onto the platform. Unfortunately, not everyone got an ideal solution as we could not meet everyone's needs. But in the end, we created a beautiful yet functional product for Stuff users to enjoy over their morning coffee.
So some advice to someone working on similar projects with similar challenges it would be too:
It seems each project incorporates design input in different ways and in varying degrees. It can take time and effort to find how best to work with the individuals and technology involved. A good team will constantly aim to improve how to incorporate design insights as the product evolves.
- Alex Dyer — UX Architect
Communication can make or break a team, especially in situations like working remotely, where good communication doesn’t always happen naturally. Solving this problem early should be a priority for teams who don’t share a real world work space. Different solutions will work for different teams. What worked well for us was having design reviews with our development team where they would fix any design problems that we came across in real time. This ensured that our feedback was being received and understood and saved us valuable time that would have otherwise been spent emailing bugs back and forth.
- Tom Young — Digital Designer
In the end, we managed to create a beautiful yet functional product for Stuff, that all parts of the business were proud of and for our users to enjoy over their morning coffee.
So please, dive in and soak it up. After all, it’s a space designed with you in mind and somewhere we want you to feel at home.