Design – Way More Than Pretty Pictures

May 23, 2013 – by Fhoke

Cover Image

Design is much more than how something looks – a design might look great but if it isn’t intuitive or if it doesn’t work properly then it hasn’t been designed very well at all.

A good designer will look at a brief, digest it, challenge it, and ask questions in order to obtain a clear list of objectives. It’s then the job of the designer to come up with a solution or concept which not only fulfils the brief but (more importantly) meets the clients requirements.

Every client wants their design to look beautiful – that’s a given, but most clients need our experience to guide them through the project answering questions, such as:

How should it look?

Speak with your client and take on-board any pre-conceived ideas. Carry out some research into your clients industry and get a feel for the world they work in. Once you understand that you’ll have a better understanding of their competitors and also how their own clients think.

What pages or screens do we need?

Get out your sketchpad and draw a sitemap, consider every page and the users journey. This will give you a complete overview of the sites pages and how they interact with each other.

How do we create clear navigation for such a complex sitemap?

Once you have a sitemap in place you’ll have a good idea of the navigational structure. If there are a lot of pages you may need more than one layer of navigation, or alternatively you could condense your pages merging sections that relate to each other. Wireframing your screens will give you a clearer picture of what you are trying to achieve.

How can we get the user from A to B via C and back again?

Consistant and concise navigation is key. Make sure you can get to every page from anywhere on your site. If you’re using a sub menu on lower-level pages consider using a crumb-trial to guide your users back to where they’ve been. If it’s an app make sure you provide a way of getting ‘back’ at all times.

What is the most important call-to action?

Look at your objectives, if you’re working on an eCommerse site the primary goal is to sell products. Products should be accessible from every page of the site, don’t hide them behind pretty banners. Make prices visible and name call-to-actions and buttons appropriately – don’t say ‘Take A Look’ when you really mean ‘Buy It Now!’.

How can we make best use of social media?

Social media is everywhere, with more and more people spending large chunks of their lives on social sites it’s important that you make your content easy for people to share. Make use of tools such as AddThis and encourage conversation through Twitter and Facebook.

The list of objectives for a project can be long and complex but a well planned and intuitive user interface will make all of the above feel simple, and that’s all down to good design. A great designer is also someone who knows when they need help – involve your teams developers, marketeers, and SEO specialists who should all ideally have a part to play in the making of a site. Without input from any one of these at the right point could see a project fall flat. Knowing your objectives will help you make the right decisions and call upon the right people for the job.

Here’s a great example of a designer not thinking through their UI properly. In this article ‘A stunning concept of what Apple’s iOS 7 could (and perhaps should) be like‘ you’ll see a great looking design concept for the new IOS7 lock screen without any thought as to how it’s actually going to work.

Design Error


Look at the above – pretty isn’t it? But anyone that’s used an iPhone will know that unlocking your phone at the top whilst using your thumb is not as easy as at the bottom of your screen. In this instance the designer has created a ‘pretty design’ but overlooked usability and has in some ways failed at the design process. Simple mistakes like this are easy to make if you’re not collaborating with others or testing your concepts.

Design Error - Corrected


With a bit of careful consideration this mistake could of easily been avoided, either by testing the design or simply asking others for feedback. When working in isolation sites like Dribbble, Forrst and Twitter allow designers to tap into their industry making it easy to seek out professional advice.

When we design and develop sites in-house we try to consider every element of a design – from the look and feel, to how it works and ultimately how it’s going to achieve the clients goals. We’re always learning though, but if you follow the basics you will have a better chance of producing something that’s great rather than average.

If you have a project in mind and fancy putting us to the test, then head over to our project planner and tell us all about it.