While there are no rigid rules when it comes to web design, there do exist certain metrics that can distinguish a bad design from a good one, and even more so, a good design from a great one.
Yet, there indeed are many practices that you can implement in order to ensure that your web design endeavors rank among the good ones — clean typography, proper usage of colors, responsive and minimal design, and so on. The question is: how do you take your good design to the next level? How does a good web design become a great web design?
As a designer, you are not just competing against the others in the industry — instead, you are also attempting to outdo your own past works. Naturally, now that you are already knowledgeable about typography and colors and other design aspects, it is time you moved on to ideas that can transform your good design into a great one. And in this article, I shall be discussing those very ideas!
Overview: Your Side of the Story
As a designer, you must already be having an idea of what separates a good design from a great one. In all likelihood, it all boils down to aesthetics, doesn’t it? In fact, not just designers, but any creative-minded person tends to choose aesthetics over anything else. As such, if a designer were to be shown two different designs and asked to pick the better one, he or she will go for the prettier one.
Of course, in this case, the definition of “pretty” itself is different — when designers say ‘pretty’ or ‘good-looking’, they are not referring entirely to eye-candy. Rather, there is also a reference to usability and judicious design elements, such as clever usage of colors, readability and proper typographic choices, and so on. This is what makes a designer’s job important: not everyone can define aesthetics as a combination of usability and beauty (and if everyone were able to do so, designers won’t be needed, right?).
The Other Side of the Story
In a perfect world, there will be no difference between creativity and marketability. Sadly, ours is not (yet) a perfect world, and differences do exist. As a designer, you may claim that proper aesthetics deserve the foremost position in acquiring the user’s attention, but the marketers will try to pitch the idea that a design can convert well only if it addresses the needs and requirements of the end user, be they psychological, financial or social.
Thus, from the marketers’ perspective, aesthetics do not play the primary role when it comes to conversion rates: what matters is the fact that the end user should feel a sense of connection with the design. Overall, for your clients, an effective design is almost always preferable over an attractive one.
Combining The Two Sides
A great design is something that gets the job done without sacrificing on any aspect. A great design is both attractive and effective, but at the same time it is also functional. It is only when you combine these three qualities that your design can be called great.
Perfectionism: Attention to Small Details
Focusing on details does require efforts, but it is an established fact that if you focus on the small details of a project, the end result will be a more polished design. Minor elements such as that odd icon or that border which would otherwise be overlooked are what distinguish a mediocre or average looking web design from an excellent one.
As such, if you are eyeing to become a great web designer, you should have a perfectionist bend of mind. Any design can be good, but if you invest those few extra efforts and pay keen attention to small details, your good design will automatically be transformed into a great one. Such extra efforts are what set a design apart — compromising on even the minutest element of your design will act as a roadblock between the actual design and the image of a ‘great design’ that you had in mind.
Creativity cannot be taught by the book, but it can surely be improved by experience. You can train yourself to think creatively and look at things from a different perspective. Of course, most design projects have a clearly defined end goal that needs to be met, but you can attempt to improvise on the different approaches that can be taken to accomplish the end goal.
Stepping out of one’s creative realm is not rocket science; all it requires is a desire to discover ways in which an already existing and impressive design can be improved. Most of the time, you need not do anything out of the blue; instead, you just need to think beyond the box when it comes to design aspects such as color schemes, typography or layout.
Keeping Your Users in Mind
Quite often, usability comes out as the distinguishing factor between a good and great design.
If you are looking at the usability patterns of a given design, do not simply check out what works, but also pay attention to why it works (tools like Firebug are helpful). A critical eye that can study and deconstruct other great designs is a must in this case, especially because your clients may just ask for a website that can help their business, whereas the end users will be looking for a website that keeps usability to the fore. As a designer, it is your task to strike a balance between the two expectations.
Web design is a profession where you cannot allow your skills to stagnate. If you intend to become a great designer, you should regularly update yourself with the latest trends, innovations and technologies in design.
Furthermore, you should bear in mind that the difference between good and great web designs is not simply limited to colors and fonts. It is more a product of aesthetics, effectiveness and functionality, all merged together to produce a design that is not only visually appealing but also usable.
What are your thoughts regarding good vs. great web design? Share them with us in the comments below!