7 th
Oct 2011

Friday quickies: Design it right!

KISS

Right guys and girls, a quickie is here again and this time I am focussing on design, but more specifically, on designing something that is fit for the job it is meant to do. Well all know the saying, KISS – Keep it simple, stupid!

Every bit of design should do a job, and I’m sorry people, but that job is not to look pretty! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bonus if something looks great, but what is much more important than that, is when a design hits a brief square on. Your design should do everything possible to make the user’s experience better.

Now some people will say “user experience designers do that, we just make it look pretty” – well sorry to say, that is horse-crap! If all you can do is make something look pretty, then you aren’t a designer for modern communications.

The reason I am using this as my quickie today is two-fold. First off, we lost Steve Jobs this week. It is a sad day for technology as he was a pioneer of new things and do you know what he did? He made things work! Being pretty was a by-product of him asking the question of “how can this work better for the user” – after he figured that out, then he went to town on making things sleek, but never at the expense of something that worked really well and was designed with the user in mind.

Secondly, yesterday I had a meeting with a client about a new site. I can’t go into too much detail, but in essence, the site was a place where users can search for locations to stay for a night or two. When we were chatting about look and feel and design – they started to show me a handful of sites that do a similar job, each and every single one of them had about 500% too much content on the homepage. My thought is, strip the page down to the bare minimum first, define what the homepage needs to do and then build it around that.

So that was my suggestion – as bold as it seemed, I asked them if they would be interested in going down a very minimal route where the search was the key focus point. We have had to meet in the middle a bit. My vision was a google-esque site, and they wanted a corporate machine of a site with a small search bar in the top right.

I always try to put myself in the user’s role – what are they there to do? If it is to search for a place to stay, how would I want to do that. Me personally, I’d like to simply start typing a location, an auto-complete suggestion list would pop up, choose my location and then hit go! Once inside, I can start to filter my options down more and more.

But my whole point here is this: if the site is a search site – then surely the search is the most important thing on the page.

Try this: strip the page down to the very bare minimum. Then build it up again with elements in the order of importance. You will find that not only do your designs feel less cluttered, but you will focus much more on the user and what they need to achieve on the site – if you can pre-empt that, then you are already winning.

Final thought – please, design with a user in mind, not just how it can be ‘pretty’ – user experience counts for so much, don’t neglect it – just KISS!

5 Responses to Friday quickies: Design it right!

  1. Chris Cox says:

    A very good point. All design should be user-centred, and no design is finished until all the useless cruft is stripped away so nothing stands between the user and what they want to do.

    Thankfully the idea of the website as glorified press release is losing traction in the marketplace, but there are still too many people who think a designer’s job is just to make things pretty.

    • RobFenech says:

      I think that comment hits the nail right on the head Chris – “so nothing stands between the user and what they want to do”

      That is the very essence of design! Thanks for the comment

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