Meta Refresh 2014

On the construction of user interface on the web

Chris Lüscher


What we learnt at iA when working on large-scale design projects

Submitted Jan 9, 2014

A large corporate presence, a news site, a complex backend tool, a SAAS platform: raw concept and design work is only part of what it takes to make large scale web design or redesign projects successful.

Projects that warrant the investment of hundreds of concept and design days usually take place in complex, sometimes entrenched corporate settings in which awareness building and change management, the quality of business, market and process analysis, the correct consideration of technological feasibility and technological agendas and, last but not least, the quality and depth of user research can make or break a project - or even the project owner’s business.

In this presentation, I will describe a set of modules that help us successfully manage large scale design projects at iA.

My talk targets project managers or product owners planning and and steering large scale web design projects, be it in an agency or on the client side. People who simply want to build design awareness within their company might find one or the other nugget too.


Each iA project is tailored to the client’s specific needs. However, there is a set of recurring modules that appear throughout many projects.

Analyzing the context

Design is not about creating nice surfaces, but about understanding how things work under the hood and giving them the most useful external form
-> How we discover and analyze the context of design projects

Awareness building through user research

Arguments about design can only be fruitful when based in a solid understanding of the end user’s needs
-> How we use user research to build our client’s awareness of his client’s needs

Keeping the initial scope under control

Project overstretch is a very real danger in large scale design projects
-> How we get started when the mountain ahead seems too high to climb

Painting the future in bright colors

Overambitious projects can fail, but many more projects yield mediocre results simply because the big vision got lost somewhere along the way
-> How we try to reconcile the wish for a „perfect“ interface with the sometimes sad reality of what’s feasible in the short term

Can’t we just iterate?

-> Why we sometimes think that it’s useful to go for the big overhaul of a design and why we sometimes try to avoid it


So we understood the context, everybody is aware of the project and wants to go on with it, there’s this wonderful future interface prototype, an overall information architecture, a beautiful design line. Now all we need to do is draw another 150 pages in Photoshop, right? Nope.
-> How we break down seemingly overwhelming projects into manageable parts
-> How we ensure consistency over large projects
-> How we approach implementation in cooperation with large tech teams

Speaker bio

Chris Lüscher co-founded iA, a Zurich and Tokyo based design agency with a focus on complex concept and design challenges in interactive products. He is a co-founder of Cucumbertown, a San Francisco and Bangalore based food blogging platform.


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