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Category "Design"

 

Tips for a Committee-Based Design Process

By Nathan Moore
August 30, 2011
 

Design should always be intentional. Always. There should always be a rationale behind the placement, the color, the size, the contrast, the typography, and the relationship with other design elements. Design should serve a purpose. Design should drive action to a certain goal.

There is great value in intentional design… it serves a specific purpose. However, on the other hand, “design by committee” produces mediocre and ineffective designs. The vision and agenda for each person involved in the decision process is different. When there is an attempt to satisfy each of these visions, it produces an average end result and rarely is effective.

Additionally, requests for design changes are likely based upon tastes rather than originating from a strategic process.

So, what if you work at a company where “design by committee” is just a fact of life? Use these tips while working with your design or web development firm:

  1. Try to minimize the number of people that need to “sign off” on the design or have input in design direction.
  2. Have a clear and concise vision for the project on which the entire group can agree.
  3. When reviewing the design, try to identify the intent behind each of the change requests. For example, if the logo need to be bigger, why does it need to be bigger? What is the purpose behind making it bigger? Many times, communicating the identified purpose to your designer will help more than simply listing change requests without context. Your designer may have a better solution for the issue you identify.
  4. Be open to suggestions. Designers design with intent. There is probably a reason why that grey bar is light grey instead or dark brown. Find a designer that will communicate these reasons to you if needed.
tags: 
categories:  Web Development  Design 
 
 

Communication Is Vital, Context Is Key

By Nathan Moore
August 19, 2010
 

Communication is vital. However, when considering effective communication, context is frequently overlooked. If communication is a process, then context is a key building block of that process.

The video below is one of the most creative and artistic displays of contextual communication I have ever seen. Every scene in the video communicates a single word.

 

If we were to take each of these quick scenes and separate them, they would communicate something entirely different… or nothing at all. Even rearranging the scenes would break the communicative process.

The brilliance of this video is that every scene fits within the context of the scene preceding it. The video begins to communicate words despite the lack of visible text. Even the dialogue is sparse. There are only a few spoken words sprinkled throughout the film to assist in the flow.

Every day, we project and decipher context constantly. Tone, mood, and body language give context to the words we are hearing and saying during conversations. Camera cuts, scores, and editing effects give context to the films we watch. Tempo, pitch, and even instruments give context to the music we hear.

In the same way, context is what makes a design communicate effectively. Differences in color schemes, placement, and even font selections can communicate different concepts. It is imperative that a design communicates the intended message correctly. Context guides this process.

 

 
 

What Is Strategy Really Worth?

By Nathan Moore
July 30, 2010
 

One of the things we practice at Anthology on a daily basis is strategy. Every decision that we make is intentionally executed to help our clients meet their goals. Websites are no longer just websites; they are marketing tools. Designs are no longer just designs; they are a conduit for effective communication.

It never ceases to amaze me how some companies and organizations think that having a website that was created using a “Website Wizard” will suffice for an online presence. Even when these groups hire a web company, many times, they go for the cheapest option and end up with a horrible template-based design with a logo thrown in the header. These solutions, though cheap, lack the thought and strategy that are crucial to a successful website.

When planning, designing, building, and implementing websites we usually ask two questions with every decision we make:

1. Why are we doing this?
2. What is best for the user and the client’s goals?

The answer to the first question, “Why are we doing this?” forces us to make intentional decisions to benefit the project as a whole. Many times, this also cuts out much of the “fat” that tends to weigh down many websites. If there is no point in having it, we remove it.

The second question, “What is best for the user and the client’s goals?” forces us to act in the best interest of the user and the client. This question arises frequently when we discuss how an interface should flow or what elements we can utilize to strategically draw the users’ attention. The result is an extremely usable website that meets the client’s goals.

However, strategy usually comes at a price. Cheaper solutions that are not driven by strategy are not the best fit for a successful web presence. Everything, from the navigation scheme to the design, needs to be done in an intentional manner to optimize impact and to make your website work for you. Otherwise, it is just wasted web space.

 
 

Tips To Creating Better Website Navigation

By Nathan Moore
October 07, 2008
 

Navigation should not be taken lightly since it is the most important interfacing utility on your website. Many times, people throw in whatever they think is important on the site. This is almost like going to the fridge and throwing together everything you like into one salad - it is just not effective and will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth.

1. Think

Navigation should be thought through carefully. When considering the top level navigation, it is usually better to cut out options than add them. Sit down with a pen and paper and map out each section and page that needs to be in the navigation (notice I did not say “that you want to be in the navigation”).

2. Prioritize

This fits hand-in-hand with the first tip. Determine the options in which your user will be most interested. What are the sections most used on your site? How do users flow through your site? Do they check one section first, then another? How can you arrange the navigation and options to improve the user experience?

3. Group

Try to group items into logical contexts. If it does not fit in the group, then it needs to go somewhere else. Many links live perfectly fine in the footer. Don’t think that every single section/link/page needs to be in the main navigation cascade.

4. Optimize

More times than not, the first stab at a navigation is not the most effective. Analyze your traffic flows and adjust accordingly. If you find that your users are not clicking on the “About Us” page, then it may be better to link to this page in the footer. You goal is to create the best navigation interface possible for the user. Give them what they need to make browsing the site most effective.

 
 

Life Optimization and Efficiency

By Nathan Moore
September 11, 2008
 

I have always been a freak about efficiency - I guess it is a combination of having an appreciation for aspects of engineering and having the tendency to be slightly obsessive-compulsive from time to time. Optimization yields efficiency.

In my day-to-day life, I try to optimize whenever possible - from lines of code in a long web app to simple things like how many loads of laundry I do in a given month. I always try to find the fastest way to get from point A to point B without affecting the quality of the end product.

Optimization is really key to progressing and evolving as an individual. As you optimize aspects in your life, you can begin to take on new things, bigger responsibilities, and explore different options.

Programmers always boast about optimization of code, but I think the principle can apply to all areas of our life - even design. Some of the best designs I have seen have been optimized for simplicity and communication. It is all about getting the core functionality of something and removing the clutter.