Posted on May 29, 2013 by
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Recently I’ve been thinking. Is the quality of web design as a discipline in serious danger of plateauing? I think it could be. Outlandish assumption, I know. I’ll do my best to explain why.

It started off by reading an interesting write up of Matthew Butterick’s talk, titled ‘The Bomb In The Garden‘. Matthew gives an eye opening analysis of the state of the web as it stands, picking apart the all-too-frequent bad design that dominates our beloved screens.

Out of the article (which I recommend you read when you get the chance), there were two points he made that particularly resonated with me:

“The web is in danger of being a second-class platform”

 ”We need to make it much easier for information to be expensive”

The point made is that the world wide web’s information is free. It’s always been free, and potentially always will be. As a result of this, web design has followed this ‘smash & grab’, ‘excess of information’ ideology. The world wide web should be a haven for creative experimentation – and we (as web designers) all often find ourselves subliminally confined to the boundaries that have been set. These boundaries don’t seem to be challenged, and as a result the stale whiff of ‘compliance’ is polluting the web as a whole.

Butterick goes further to suggest that “the web is in danger of being a second-class platform”. Meaning growing mediums such as iOS and Android native apps (with better user interfaces and attention to design) are a real threat to the universal acceptance of the world wide web, and a threat to the feasibility of effectively selling the products and services we all have to offer.

Considering this as the problem, I’ve spent some time drawing up ‘the ten steps that will save web design’, that I can refer to when designing websites in future. Hopefully not only will this be beneficial for the business I am designing for, it will also be beneficial to the world wide web as a whole. I believe the more web design is considered in this fashion, the more likely it will keep the web’s integrity in place. Especially in this time of inevitable technological progression.

1. Take risks

Quite self explanatory really. Try something different. Look at your competitors, and do the opposite. To be original, and unique – risks are absolutely necessary, and unavoidable.

2. Class websites as products

We often sell products on websites, but forget that the website itself should be treated in the same way. To get a successful product – it needs to look good, be of substantial quality and serve a purpose in order for consumers to buy into it. The exactly the same principles apply to websites too.

3. Challenge technology

This goes back to the ‘boundaries’ I mentioned earlier. We all too often limit ourselves to what we know. All it needs is a fantastic idea and a half decent implementation of the idea for someone else to be inspired and contribute further to the technological community (look at jQuery for example). Solutions can’t be made without someone creating a problem first.

4. Ask yourself “is it necessary?” 

This can apply to the content that is included in the site, or indeed the product/service you are offering in the first place. Relevancy is integral to engagement. If it isn’t relevant, it is just noise. And there is plenty of noise circling around the web already.

5. Give everything treatment

From a design perspective, go back to basics. Design is a discipline that has been considered and evolved for centuries. Those considerations are there for reasons – essentially because they work. Tracking, leading, kerning, composition, gestalt, dynamics etc. are all words that seem to have been lost in web design, mainly because of the technical restrictions 5+ years ago. As modern technology is more advanced, now is the time we ensure these words are not unnecessarily forgotten.

6. Quality beats time

Its easy to cut corners. Cutting corners will make an excellent concept seem good. Take that extra effort to consider things further. Try to get it right first time. If you do, you’ll actually probably save yourself more time in the long run.

7. Be an authority

Don’t try and please the user. Instead be confident that what you are displaying on your site is right for the user. Be confident in what you offer and what you stand for. If what you offer is good quality and relevant to them, then your site will convert.

8. Recognise user intelligence

Present yourself with integrity. If you pull wool over anyone’s eyes, or pretend to be something your not – the user will always find out. Users go into the majority of sites with scepticism, and are very good at digging out a company’s true colours. Stay true to your ethos and ensure you present yourself in an honest way. If you do, you’ll earn the users trust.

9. Be clear about your intentions

Transparency goes a long way. Straight-talking simple messages, clear pricing and a solid company ethos means that you lay everything out on the table. If what you are offering is good, then people will buy. Simple.

10. Aim to truly engage

To truly engage a user is to get their undivided attention, and it is a lot harder than it sounds. Essentially, if a web design fully immerses a user – then they are far more likely to do business with you. Your website should be emotive, enjoyable and answer all the questions the user may have.

I’d love to hear your opinions on any of the above, so feel free to posts your comments below.

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