We are often asked what goes into a digital design. Is it some sort of template or is it from scratch? Are the designers working off a set of ‘design rules’ or is it whim? What comes first – the client’s wishes or the wireframe?
As with every creative endeavour, digital design is an organic medium; a design will grow to meet its surroundings. As with everything organic it will follow a pattern. It isn’t merely a collection of ideas that are thrown at a page until they look ok. Every digital design grows along a strict scaffold of design ethoses and a design timeframe until, what we are left with is the aesthetically pleasing and functional result.
The goals of a website are a fixed set of criteria by which we judge designs. These inform every design decision.
Is the goal of the website to sell? If so, what is the product which brings in the highest margin? Which product to most clients come to the site to see/review/buy? How fast can we get the customer from A to B using good design and information hierarchy?
These questions are important to ask before any actual design is done. Once we have the goals of the site set out we can move forward with putting together a wireframe.
The foundation of every good design is the wireframe. The wireframe itself is based on the client needs and the functional needs of the software or website.
A wireframe is essentially what you would get if you took a website, stripped away all the colours and all the buttons and were left with a scaffold of lines, boxes and fields.
This is the foundation of the entire site or software platform, back to front, beginning to end. Every single interaction will take place within this space. This places limitations on what other design elements can be implemented as they must work within the bounds of the wireframe.
The wireframe is designed based on the client’s needs.
Needs vs Wants
Stepping back from the design itself for a second let’s speak about a client’s needs vs a client’s wants.
Many clients will come to a digital design company with a solid idea about what they want. They may have seen designs in the past that blew them away, or have a particular picture of the site in their head.
Most of this will be very good information for the designer to have. However, if the client is unwilling to budge on the design then the end result will be disappointing.
This is because what the client wants is often not the same as what the client needs.
Every piece of software, be it a website, an application or a complicated enterprise management system, must have clear primary and secondary goals. Holding to those goals is important as accomplishing them is the way we can judge the success, or failure of the software.
A website must engage people, but not at the expense of function. Over the years there have been many fantastic looking sites which have forgotten this rule. In forgetting the purpose of their website, be it sales or information, the site can look amazing but will deliver a substandard experience to the user.
The perfect example of this is a design element called a carousel slider. A popular trend some years ago was to include a product slider at the top of the page. This banner would rotate between specials, it was interactable and it was large.
While it looked impressive in actuality it delivered no real information or function to users. Most people don’t want to sit there while your banner cycles, slowly through information. 89% of users who interacted with the banner at all clicked the first item, leaving only 11% of users interacting with any of the following items. What’s worse is that the amount of users that actually clicked the banner constituted only 1% of total visitation.
This made the banner a sizeable investment in screen real estate for a very minor payoff in usability.
These kinds of design faux pas are the kinds of things our expert design and business analysis team can help a client avoid.
The Finished Design
Once the wireframes have been approved the designers can set to work on creating every single page. The pages will all follow the wireframe designs and will all be tested against the website goals. Design will continue until what we deliver is a polished, needs tested, workflow orientated and aesthetically beautiful view of what the website will look like.
After that all we have to do is build it.