Web designers rightfully have an obsession with details and coming up with designs which are truly (or somewhat) unique. Designing your personal portfolio or blog can be a great chance to focus on the little details that we believe make so much of a difference to our sites. However this obsession to be outstanding should be put to one side when designing for a client.
When you’re designing for a client you should be focusing 100% on what the users would like to achieve when they visit your client’s site (unless you’re an advocate of client-centric design). Whether it’s a website for a shop, band, personality, or even just a website for your local bar, as web designers it’s important to get our priorities straight and not become overcome by our own obsessions.
A classic case is someone who
has just figured out how to use Layer Styles in Photoshop is getting started as a web designer. Designers are naturally competitive and as they get better and better in the early stages of their career they will more then likely develop a snobbish attitude towards many websites they come across, which aren’t (in their opinion) stunning or unique.
The main thing these budding designers need to understand is that there is more to web design than what you see on the surface. We as designers have a responsibility to educate ourself on usability principles, user experience, typography and graphic design just as much as we need to know how to use Photoshop effectively.
Obviously I know there are many websites which fail both design and usability-wise. But some websites may get slated just because they haven’t got a pretty face.
Certainly I was also guilty of these crimes when I started out designing for the web. During one project, I was designing for a client and I decided to put the company’s phone number at the bottom of the page (in the footer). At the time I felt this was an educated design decision that I could easily justify but when questioned by one of my colleagues on why I put it there, I answered:
It looks nicer down there. If I put it in the header it just looks ugly!
When I put myself in the users position I began to think that maybe the user doesn’t want to look at the site at all, maybe the company’s phone number is the only piece of information that they are looking for. I caved and decided to move it into the header and design around the content rather than the other way round. Content is king!
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is the goals of a website/app/whatever. Once these are defined you can then organise them into a hierarchy. Following that you can focus on site structure and start building with an idea of how the user will navigate the site. In my opinion, design should be last — the final piece in the jigsaw, merely serving to guide and seduce the user. Face it, users don’t give a sh*t about your design, they just want to get stuff done.