The popular line of thinking in the world right now is that design is subjective. To the people who espouse that line of thinking, I would like to introduce you to glass ketchup bottles. While you’re growing up, I’m guessing your parents taught you at some point to never waste anything, even for something as small as ketchup. The question of course is how are you going to squeeze that last drop of ketchup when it’s inside a glass bottle?
Regular water or wine has a much lower viscosity than ketchup so it doesn’t really matter when they’re inside a glass bottle but for materials like ketchup, not being able to squeeze them out is a hassle. Good design should always prioritize function over form and as such, any argument on why glass ketchup bottles are better is invalid, because design is objective. Web design too is no different, form should always follow function.
Web design, is it or is it not an art?
It might have some artistic values but web design is not art. Art is inherently useless; any value that could be taken from a piece of art solely depends on the observer. Someone whose exposure to art is limited to a holiday trip to the Louvre might balk at having to sit for hours seeing a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried while others with a more refined taste wouldn’t waste any time looking at the Mona Lisa.
Web design on the other hand is about making sure that visitors have no problem making their way around their website. They should have no problem scanning and identifying the contents on your website, navigating to a certain part of your website and finding specific information that they’re looking for in your website. Web designers could achieve that in a number of ways, there’s more than one road to Rome after all, but there are pitfalls along those roads that should always be avoided.
There’s too much of everything
Minimalism isn’t trending right now for no reason, it’s trending because it is functionally beautiful. Instead of cramming a cornucopia of elements in your webpage, focus on one or two elements that you’d like to showcase and designate them as your hero element. This hero element act as the centerpiece to your webpage while others stand in the background. In a world where distractions are always abound for users; having a singular focus could elevate you above your competitors.
Failure to incorporate users’ viewpoint
It’s quite common for a designer to grow attached to their designs. I write things for a living and there are times when even if the things coming out of my keyboard is legitimately bad, I’m still personally fond of them. For the most part, this isn’t a problem because writing is not interactive but web design is a whole different ballgame.
Are you familiar with the ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ meme? Sometimes, designers, engineers and programmers forget that the majority of the people that are going to use their products are the average folk. They’re not going to always share the same viewpoints as the creators and when those very same creators fail to acknowledge this somehow, things are going to be problematic. Always prepare a prototype first and test it out on people outside of your team and listen to their feedback.
Mistaking design for a linear process
The adage of going back to the drawing board is a cliche because it’s true, which correlates to the point above. Once you’ve presented a prototype of your design and found that the testers you’ve picked have pointed out a serious flaw, always be prepared to adapt. Alternatively, it’s also pretty common for clients to request on-the-fly changes and additions that might add more wrinkles to your process.
The truth of the matter is, design is an iterative process with continually variable goal posts. Every time you get a sense that your work here is done, you or others around you would no doubt come up with a detail or two that could always be improved. It is a mistake to think of design as a linear process; there is simply no ending in striving for a perfect design.
A tendency to be disruptive
Since the beginning of this decade, the tech world has been full of precocious start-ups claiming that they’ve developed a product that could disrupt an entire industry. To be clear, the likes of Netflix and Airbnb has certainly changed their respective industries but in the wake of their success, there are also hundreds of companies like Jawbone and Juicero, promising disruption when all they’re selling is just more of the same packaged with excessive marketing.
Design standards are standards for a reason, it’s because they work. Traffic lights have been using the same three colors all over the world for a reason. I’m not forbidding you from experimenting but I just want to make sure that you’re doing so because you genuinely feel that you could actually improve upon what’s accepted and not merely for the sake of being different.
The advice I’ve outlined here deals with the abstract part of the design. Generally, I consider the abstract part to be more important since when it comes to technicalities, it’s really more about following the usual best practices to the letter. When it comes to any kind of work, it’s essential to first nail the approach and once that’s done, then the actual work could finally begin.