How to deal with Web Design?

I love street art. A painting, a graffiti can instantly be giving me emotions, it can be from the Whaou effect to pure goose-bumps. Literally.

In graffiti, there are specific shapes, shadows, colors or fonts I do love. I got the habit of noticing them, taking them into pictures and built a small portfolio of my favorite ones. But I have an issue, I’m not (euphemism) an artist, I do not draw, I do not play music: nothing. As a consequence, I’m always struggling describing and putting words on pieces of art I do like despite all my trials.

I face the exact same problem when working on projects involving web design, and so do most of the “regular clients”. At both crucial stages of a project, when building a graphical brief and later giving feedbacks it’s always the same story: designers and users live in two different galaxies (check out this very funny infographics). I have been doing some investigations and most of the material I found on the Internet was really interesting but almost exclusively written by designers, thus just giving one facet of the problem (what about developers, clients?). Designers and clients do not share a common language and do not have the same background, it’s not given to everybody to know the aesthetic foundations (principles of art, color theory, etc.) and get this basic knowledge. This situation leads to too many backs and forth and frustration on all parties.

Without a common language, effective communication amongst team members is a nightmare. What can we do? How to deal with Web Design ?

Take this blog for instance, I wanted to avoid doing a logo by myself (I would not have been able to do it but had in mind using this cool tool…). I went to and tried to play with their rules of the game, I guess this website might not be representative and more to be considered as a “cheap access to designers” (please react) but still. Ugly LFT LogoAfter giving answers to few questions (description, audience, core values, samples I like, etc.), it took like 10 minutes, I started receiving designs. In my opinion (I know it does not mean anything as is: it  should be detailed and based on more concrete facts), only a small third of the designs received were true proposals. Just have a look to one I received (seriously ?). By proposal, I mean that at least a minimum time and effort have been spent in understanding my expectations.

This small post is a message in a bottle to have more suggestions coming from designers. I am still uncertain of what to provide, how to put words on things and how to be helpful to them. I of course want to be as constructive as possible and remind it here: I admire creative people and am so thankful to some of them who just make the Web (and our streets and lives) more beautiful!

My 2 cents for designers:

  • More time should be spent upfront to define expectations, glossary, etc. The more you spend time in this phase the more secure will be your project and last minute surprises avoided. Critics, feedbacks should be much more accurate and fair if a graphical design brief has been properly done
  • Be honest in what you can or cannot do. In fact it should be more phrased what you want or don’t want to do. Clients should respect designers and their personalities, their styles: a designer should not run counter to the very nature of his work. As difficult as it sounds you should be ready to refuse some work if you cannot match your vision with the one of the client
  • Do not fall into the oversimplification of client’s role, they know their business, they pay for a service. A client could be representing a bunch of people and he might be hard for him conciliate several feedbacks from all the people at stakes, do not see him as just the guy not understanding anything. Yes he might need to be educated and you should be willing to do so
  • Help them in conducting the feedbacks phase with the processes, technics or tools you know. Ask yourself if you have such action plan in mind. If you cannot explain what you need to achieve your work, bet situation will be even worse on client’s side!

Any thoughts?

PS: Among the best articles I read on the subject I would like to mention the one from Smashing Magazine (as usual) and the one from Lee Munroe.


About the Author

Donald Havas

French technical evangelist and blogger with extensive working experience in the technology industry field (corporate IT, professional services and product development). Passionate about software development processes, innovation, new technology & industry trends and the gaming industry. And promoting simplicity and pragmatism on top of everything.

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