The Waterfall vs Agile Web Design Process

By Kevin Barber, founder of Lean Labs



Below is a visual description of what to expect with the common waterfall web design process.

The Waterfall Website Design Process

The waterfall method is moving from one phase to another, one at a time, without revisiting the completed phases until all other phases are complete.

Think of it as building a house: You lay the foundation first before you ever start working on the roof. Once the foundation is complete, it’s time to move on to the next phase: Framing the house.

What you will not do is get halfway done with the roof and then decide to “tweak” the foundation. While you can add on to a finished house later, “tweaking” the foundation after the house has been framed will require a huge revision of everything, not just the foundation.

To build a house, you go from one phase to the next, driving all of them to completion. 



Below is a visual description of what to expect with the agile web design process.

The Agile Website Design Process

The agile process is about getting something to market very quickly, even though it might not be absolutely ready for prime time. Even though it’s not a “finished” product, it’s launched so you can use it to quickly learn what’s best, and make iterative changes to arrive at an optimized final product.

You launch small so you can test, learn, and react before investing in a “big” design solution.

Love reading?

One of the most popular forms of agile is called "SCRUM." The co-founder of SCRUM, Jeff Sutherland, and his son, JJ, have written a beautiful overview on the process. Although the book is written in the context of software, the concepts can be applied to anything.


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Agile web design

is a better process for complex projects with high uncertainty and changing requirements (aka, most websites).

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SCRUM Resources

SCRUM is a popular version of agile process. Their website, although primiarly focused on software, offers a wealth of knowledge on agile. 

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Recommended Books

Interested in reading up on both agile and other modern product / website design processes? Check out this curated list of books to read. 

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