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Why you Shouldn’t ‘Design’ a Website

Yep, design is extremely subjective. But I’m sure you knew that already. I just want to sum up how that subjectivity can cause all kinds of problems when dealing with clients and why I have chosen a reason-based approach to design instead.

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If you simply go ahead and mockup a ‘design’ for a website and hand it over to your client for their approval, you could be lining yourself up for multiple revisions and endless headaches. The point I’m getting at is what might be a good design to you, may not be good design to them. If you haven’t justified your design with hard-nosed reasoning you have no leg to stand on when they ask you to increase the size of a logo or change the colour of a button (which could wreck the whole thing).

I learned early on in my dealings with clients that every element on a page mockup needs to be explained. And as I approach all new web design projects with hard-set goals in mind I am easily able to justify every decision I have made which believe me, actually makes the approval process a pleasant experience.

My initial approach to a project generally always involves a detailed meeting to get to know the business inside out. I will discover who exactly their clients are, where they’re coming from, what their brand positioning is and what they want to achieve with the website. The more detail I can gather on all these points, the better. Usually in that meeting they’ll also proceed to tell me what websites they like. However this really isn’t important and more often than not the end result is a million miles away from the design of the sites they like. Why? Because the site is not being designed for them. It’s designed for their target audience – the ones who will be using it, who consequently, may have completely different tastes.

Someone asked me recently how many home page mockups I usually design for my clients for them to choose between. For me it’s always been just the one. I can’t imagine it any other way. If you’ve thoroughly done your research on a business, analysed any data provided and got the end goal in focus, there’s really only one true solution. The reason being the focus would be all on design and how to make it different to the first one, therefore this is not an approach that works.

If a company approaches me wanting me to fulfill their vision for a new web design, I can’t help them. I design around goals and money. There are plenty of design agencies out there that can help them with their ‘vision’, but I’m not one of them. All in all, it’s a pointless exercise creating websites based on a person’s subjective opinion if you really want that website to work.

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