We are manic about planning. After over a decade of building websites, we have learned the value of a solid plan. We have tried many paths to the perfect plan, and it seems that no matter how thorough your documentation or how detailed your functional specification, nothing can replace the value of a functioning prototype.
Most people have a much easier time understanding the depth and breadth of their project if they can actually navigate through a representation of their site.
An important aspect of this prototype is that it is "ugly by design," meaning we create simple black and white wireframes that represent the page layout and content without focusing on the pretty colors, photography, etc.
We do this because design is an entirely different conversation that deserves its own venue.
We took this prototype idea one step further and created the ability for our team to add planning notes on a page by page basis. We also added a complete treaded discussion board panel at the bottom of each page in the prototype for our clients. These tools empower our project managers and clients to collaborate in the planning process and literally see the website built from the ground up.
Once the wireframes in the prototype are completed and we have all agreed upon how the content will layout and be navigated by the user, we can begin discussing the graphic design and interface intelligently.