Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category
I’m a novice at this whole web design thing. I had to learn a lot about it to put the Ballad website together and have been doing quite a lot of it at work recently, but the truth is that I’m still feeling my way around to a large extent. I lack the confidence and methodology that comes with experience – I’m friends with more than one decent designer, and every time I speak to them and the subject, this becomes painfully obvious to me. I don’t really mind. After all, the only way to get experience is to have experiences, so this sort of bumbling is constructive.
Currently, I am designing web sites for a company that designs and manufactures street furniture and advertising lightboxes. I got the job despite my low experience level by using the tried and true method of offering my services for slave wages. The experience has been valuable and incredibly educational.
I’m finding that in fact, my biggest problem as a neophyte web designer has nothing to do with my efficiency with HTML or CSS. My biggest problem is that I have no eye for what looks good on the page – a far deeper and more troubling issue, I think! You should see my proud first attempts to design the Ballad’s website. It looks good now – for a given value of ‘good’ – but my first attempts look like they belong on webpagesthatsuck.com. I’m embarrassed to look at them now, but they did teach me an important lesson – in this particular field, I can’t trust my imagination at all.
So, over time, as I come out with designs and ideas and submit them to my boss for feedback, I’ve developed a few tricks to get around this and compensate for my complete lack of aesthetic sense. I’ve found that the most important thing to consider in when putting a page together is perspective.
Web pages are an interesting challenge because being beautiful is not enough by itself. They have to be functional, too, or the entire purpose is defeated. To accomplish this, the page needs to fulfil the needs of the customer (which, weirdly, are not always aligned with the wants of the business). So taking the customer’s perspective in designing pages is essential, I’ve found. Equally important is the ability to convince the higher-ups in the company just how essential it is.
I’m new at this, and I get stuck frequently. I can write the pages, but coming up with things that work, are good-looking, and semi-original takes an awful lot of thought. When I am bogged down in the details, I find it helps to return to the big questions:
- What does the user need this page to do?
- What does the company need this page to do?
- What features are required to accomplish (1) and (2)?
- What features can be eliminated without affecting (1) and (2)?
Putting myself in the customer’s position and as I try to make sense of this page I’m writing helps me tell the differences between features that are useful and essential and features that can (and therefore probably should) be axed.
Asking others for feedback also helps me overcome my visual lack of taste or sense. Just as in writing, the fairest and sharpest critics are the best. Fortunately, I am blessed to know a few people who aren’t afraid of hurting my feelings and will tell me that the poo I’m working on does, in fact, look and smell like poo. This saves me a whole lot of time and effort. My boss thinks I am some sort of undiscovered web design prodigy, mostly because the pages I send him for review have been to the butcher to have the gristle cut out before they ever make it to his screen. But the truth is that I’m not – I just have a lot of honest, trustworthy friends who I can count on to give constructive criticism, and I’m not too proud to edit my work based on their suggestions.
So, I have no eye for design, but I am at least able to compensate for its lack. I’m hoping it’s a learned skill, and that after I’ve got several websites under my belt, I can begin to tell the difference between Hot and Not on my own. If anyone has any suggestions for practice or improving my abilities in this area, I’d love to hear them. I am always looking for ways to refine my skills and have a great deal left to learn.
– Edward Clark