The ‘Expected’ factor

Another site going to closet. Deep darkness in the memory, I don’t want to ever remember it. Yes, I did it to owner’s specification and… I am not happy about it. Some people have no sense of aesthetics or technical taxonomy, but still impose final decisions on a public website that will be used by their customers. It’s like hiring a carpenter and telling him to make a porch pillars out of willow twigs and tie them with some wire. Original? – Yes. Makes sense – No.

There is some level of expectation when you come to the storefront such as a business website. It’s not even an artist’s site. So much talked about out-of-the-box approach must be tied to overall marketing strategy of the business. The originality, the wow, the surprise factor does not apply if

  • it looks like middle school project done by parents
  • it has nothing to do with functionality of the purchasing or getting information process
  • it makes things awkward for a visitor
  • surprise is not mentioned in your “Marketing Plan” document (don’t have one? – then you should develop it)

Standard, simple, clear, aesthetically pleasing is GOOD. Things that work like expected are good.

I could’ve refuse this project, right? But it started with a plea to ‘update design’, and it finished with… half of the original design repeated, at the explicit request. Plus there was much more to the site than just design, so I was happy to code n’ all. Do I have a way with people? – No. Am I quitting freelancing? – No. Like that carpenter trying to convince his client that – if he reinforces twigs with a concrete structure, it will hold, but he’d rather do it up to professional standards – I was trying to negotiate with my client a more professional solution, and failed.

In my previous project, when I asked an owner how he likes his site to look, the reply was short: “You know better how to design websites. Just make it look good.” This answer just shocked me – I was drunk on happiness, and forever thankful to ’let me do my thing’. When I go to the hairdresser, I use exactly the same phrase: “just make me look good”. I take my chances, but I am not making decision in an area where I am not a pro.

Another project put me in line of commands of the Creative Director. His paintings were brilliant and color sensitivity amazing. You could feel the artistry in every mockup he presented. He also made a point to break every rule of the standard layout, and changed fonts fifty times, before settling on something that was barely readable for anyone over forty. Site finally looked very good, but he refused to modify contrasts to comply with Accessibility act. We struggled for weeks – not for dominance, but to simply make things work.

Somewhere in the middle are projects where the clients clearly knows what she wants, is open to experience input, and it looks good and it works, and it all makes sense. Looking forward to many more of these.

New designs / innovations are developed by continually improving on existing designs. Originality does not happen out of the blue. It is 99.9% of the times a spin on known, existing ideas. If truly non-standard, unusual, surprising product comes out, it is mostly struggling for any recognition or rejected for years, before being re-discovered again and exposed to viewers, who already had some taste of it earlier.
Harvard Business Review published the article on “empathic design” already in 1997. And now it calls to “Declare your radicalness” – good idea! Both to the point that I am trying to make.

Meeting market demand is largely a blind exercise, because clients wanting ‘something more’ won’t tell you what it is exactly that they want to see. They may like it when they see it. Until then, keep innovating (slightly) well proven, standard, functional websites.

Your cart is empty