Start at the start, or start at the end? Agile and creativity

It’s been a long standing discussion point at Deepend that Agile (scrum) can kill creativity. We’ve explored why at length, and we’ve found it’s regularly influenced by how the creative process was started with the project. The challenge is where to start creatively, and when to start building.

Start at the end? Or start at the start?

It’s often a discussion had – should we start with the homepage? Or should we start with “the most complex lower level page?”

Case for starting at the end:

If your most difficult to define page is the homepage, it makes perfect sense to defer the homepage design and development until near the end of the project, when your art direction is clear and you’ve got a really clear idea of what you want to do with it.  Makes sense right?

If you leave the homepage until the end, then when you get to it, you know all the challenges of the site really well, you’ve been living and breathing the thing for a long time, and theoretically, you can deliver a solid design quick smart. You’ll have a clear set of guidelines to inherit, and you’ll be able to know your design doesn’t cause any knock-on issues.

So starting with the toughest page can provide a really strong functional concept, but can severely limit a more creative approach to the challenges.

Case for starting at the start:

But for a user, the homepage is what set’s the mood for the entire system. And let’s face it, stakeholders typically think like stakeholders, and designers are so used to getting that “direction” from the homepage… But all the design and UX challenges are actually encountered on the more complex pages in the site!

So starting with the homepage can be a real challenge, because as soon as you scratch the surface, you’ll immediately realise that you actually need to know everything else about the site before you can design something solid.

Can you design the candle at both ends?

So the natural third option is to create a concept for the “toughest” page design, and for the homepage at the same time. The problem here is that unless you actually start building from both ends – essentially burning up your points – you’ll end up leaving a homepage concept on a shelf for weeks, and get back to it thinking “Why on earth did we think that?”, or vice-versa for your toughest page.

So how do you design and build the homepage and toughest page at the same time? Isn’t that just building the entire site? And aren’t we then back to square one of trying to spec and build everything all at once!?

Would love to hear how others have toyed with the idea, and come out the other side with great work.

One Comment

  1. I’m of the opinion that a set of basic templates (1 of each kind) should be designed as one task/iteration/ whatever… just at the same time. Everyone needs to see the ‘big picture’ (even if it’s pretty rough) to know what the ultimate purpose of the job is.If not, you will always have to deal with unseen repercussions, whether you design the most or the least complex page. It is a big gamble to design this way.Having a great design means having a consistent and fluid experience, something that gets tough when designing page by page.I actually don’t think it matters at all that more complex parts of, say the homepage, don’t get built. At least there is sold base of work from which to change & build from in agile development.

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