updated: April 29th, 2012 / Ross Johnson / 5 Comments

The New Designer Mindset

With design, there is no universal “best approach” that will apply to all situations. Those using the site, how they got there, their goals and the objectives of the site owners will all influence the most effective design approach. The best advice I can give is to empathize with the users, understand that they know very little about the company and struggle to just navigate the web . Think about what are they trying to accomplish and figure out how can you best facilitate it. Great design is achieved through an understanding of cognitive psychology, not the reuse of design patterns.

— A small snippet of an e-mail conversation I was having earlier today…

5 thoughts The New Designer Mindset

  1. This brings up many interesting points. One that I’ve been considering a lot lately is trying to stray away from the in-and-out approach to designing new websites. This involves trying to explain to clients that the web design process can’t reach its full potential until the website is launched, allowed to grow and then analyzed. It’s extremely difficult, especially with new businesses to understand “the users”.

    Thanks for the email by the way 🙂

  2. That is definitely one approach you could take, but there are pro’s and con’s to it as well. The risk of just analyzing data or only doing split testing is you don’t see the reason why people do what they do. You may find incremental gains by split testing an existing solution, but you don’t have enough information to create a new and better one. This is why field observation is typically the best approach to design which doesn’t necessarily have to wait until site completion.

    Ross Johnson
  3. Field Observation certainly seems to be a great approach to design. The only issue I run into is that many times I feel the need to use one approach for the initial launch of a new website, and another after the website has established its desired user base.

    For example I believe it’s good to launch a brand new website with the goal of sharing. Seeing as very few people know about the new project. So I make social icons easily accessible and even have gone as far as disabling comments initially on a blog. After the website has achieved its initial goal and is then attracting a good user base, I like switching the “goal” of the website to conversion, whether its e-commerce, comments on-site, or what have you.

    Not sure if that’s a “good” way to go about it, but I feel like a newly launched website should have a different “feel” to it than an already established one.

  4. I think your head is in the right place, but you are working with a much more complex set of variables. Remember, design, particularly applied to the web, is about problem solving based on psychology. More specifically, what solution can be created based on what you know about the users.

    Changing a design, especially one that has an “established user base” is a big deal. We are genetically wired to gravitate towards consistency. Unnecessary change is upsetting. Changing a design requires frequent users to relearn the website, which is frustrating.

    Why sacrifice primary objectives for promotion when you can promote independent of the website? Furthermore just having prominent social icons isn’t going to make people share if there isn’t anything worth while. The situation is classic cost-benefit principle. If you have a compelling site, people will naturally want to comment, share it, etc… regardless if it feels “new” or “old.” If you don’t, long-term, nothing is going to help.

    Don’t try and manipulating the environment, be honest with the users.

    Ross Johnson
  5. There actually *is* one unversal best approach and you identified it in your article: identify the goals and the objectives of the site owners. This is it! Once you have the goals identified, everything else will fall into place!

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