Design: not just the frosting on the website cake

Good web design means so much more than just pretty colours and pictures. It’s the result of close collaboration with clients, problem-solving processes, and lots of iterations.

Communication and collaborative effort

Educating clients on the value of website design is an ongoing issue for many designers and design teams. A lot of people mistakenly think design is just about making the website look attractive. In fact, it’s much more deep-rooted than that.

First and foremost, it involves a lot of collaborative work between clients and internal creative teams – from the get-go. Being part of this strategic conversation and website analysis from the beginning is key to designers’ gleaning insights into and gaining understanding of the client’s goals and objectives.

Taking part in this strategy means carefully reviewing both what works and what doesn’t work – and, more specifically, why – on the site’s current design.

Solution seekers

Another misconception is that design is abstract, when it’s actually about solving very specific client problems. This is another reason it’s so important for design to be involved up-front in analysing the customer’s site.

In some ways, it’s very similar to what user experience (UX) teams are after. In other words, for designers to be able to come up with something that’s relevant to what’s going to display on the page, they need to know what those elements are. What does the client intend with its redesigned website?

If designers can’t answer this question, how can they possibly tackle solutions? For instance, we get a lot of clients and customers who say to us, “Can’t we just modernise our site?” The problem is, they don’t yet know what they want to say. Say, for example, it’s a banking site, and the client knows there’s a section of the page where the bank wants to talk about credit cards. If we as the designers don’t know the client wants to talk about credit cards there, how can we source any of the relevant icons or imagery? So, again, the more information we have up-front, as far as content and what the user wants, needs, and is looking for, the better we can do our jobs.

Iterate, deliberate, and iterate some more

Once designers understand the problem the client needs solved, they can carry that through their design process. To achieve good design means going through many iterations. Designers need to constantly evaluate each iteration, asking themselves how a different typography here or a microanimation there could improve on other renderings – and ultimately solve the client’s problem (and provide a positive user experience for the client’s own customers) in the best possible way.


Interview with Vanessa DeConinck, 16 May


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