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Visual Impact and the Web

02 Jun 2003 by LukeW

First: an introduction.

Second: a post.
Though most people’s idea of visual impact isn’t complete without bright colors and big pictures, there are other ways to get your audience to take notice. Subtle colors, a unique layout, altered perspective, and more can often engage an audience more effectively than a barrage of focal points. Web interfaces in particular can’t rely on multiple visual pleas for attention: there are too many points of interaction on your typical Web site or application. As an example: version1 (180 KB jpg) vs. version2 (220 KB jpg). What works to engage yet not distract and how important is that “first impression”?

65 comments so far (Post a Comment)

02 Jun 2003 | B said...

I'd say the second design gives me a little more to go on (more starting points, nav I can notice at first glance), but both seem way too busy to me.

02 Jun 2003 | Mike Rundle said...

I definitely like the second one more; the first one has two large conflicting images (one of the molecule and the other of the woman at the bottom), and that definitely distracts the user's eye from the main content/navigation.

The second concentrates on the navigation and main content more (the rectangular navigational bricks are fantastic!), and it seems more professional.

02 Jun 2003 | Geoffrey said...

Your argument is spot-on, and is something to strive for in every job. The hardest, if not impossible part, is to convince clients not to make everything bigger and brighter. Of course simple, consise layouts will engage us as designers more effectivley, but to the average user or client it is quite often completey lost on them. What to do?

02 Jun 2003 | t said...

The first one looks like the site should sell motherboards. They both seem kind of awkward to me; the use of space seems "off." Anyone else? Am I crazy?

02 Jun 2003 | Joshua Kaufman said...

Version 2 is more engaging due to its use of color and layout. Version 1 is more distracting and makes less of a visual impression.

Web interfaces in particular can’t rely on multiple visual pleas for attention

I agree with this, but even though version 2 is more engaging, it seems to have just as many "points of interaction" as version 1. Your point is a good one, but I think you're examples could be better.

02 Jun 2003 | Doug said...

I'd go for the second one- it's more clean, and doesn't cram a ton of images in your face. The first may be more 'memorable,' but memorable doesn't always hold when there's a ton of sites that look just like it. I'd be more likely to remember the second and actually come back to it.

02 Jun 2003 | rjs said...

The point that most sites have too many points of interaction is a good and important one, but there are problems in the demo.

It isn't clear that the 'HPC Users' and 'News' headers (tailers?) refer to the links above them.

The dual-function of the 'News' box as parent to the links above it and header to the news features below it seems more of a confusing happy accident than clever design. I'd rather deal with the cluttered first design than puzzle out the second.

And why is my eye drawn first to Rob Pennington? Is this guy what most visitors to the NCSA are interested it?

02 Jun 2003 | JF said...

The first impression I want is one that I can understand. A first impression needs to be an understading, nothing more.

02 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

02 Jun 2003 | rjs said...

good point. that breathing room makes a better first impression, and more importantly, makes the page comfortable.

02 Jun 2003 | pb said...

#2 is aesthietically more pleasant but still on the busy side. #1 is ridiculous with the competing images.

I sitll think most designers go over-board on the design. I was hoping that by this point in the web's lifetime that design would become less over-whelming and that sites would become more consistent and functional.

02 Jun 2003 | JF said...

I sitll think most designers go over-board on the design. I was hoping that by this point in the web's lifetime that design would become less over-whelming and that sites would become more consistent and functional.

Take a look at third party car stero headunits and you'll see that maturity does not equal cleaner design and easier to use interfaces.

02 Jun 2003 | Menc said...

I'm liking version 1. It's different, the shapes are striking and it has a clear look, whilst version 2 looks kind of muddled.

02 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

What JF said.

Visual impact is only a priority for the one-track-minded marketing drones (and graphic designers with blinders on).

The only thing that matters is if I (well, rather, your audience) can find what I'm looking for on your site.

The two examples shown both lack what I find to be the absolute priority: A simple description of what I'm looking at. (ie, who is NCSA? They do something with science...what? What's an HPC user? What's a project?)

02 Jun 2003 | nathan said...

T is right, version 1 looks like a discount hardware retailer's site.

Version 2 is cleaner, more subdued, but has the same scattershot quality of version 1. The grid of 4 primary content areas is clever at the cost of readability (and looks like a scalability problem waiting to happen). There aren't any clear places to start clicking except for the dropdowns and search, but their usability suffers due to their odd arrangement.

The list of links in the tan area, "view more feature stories", and the banner ad looking article link, are confusing.

The worst thing is that it's not clear what NCSA does, the tagline is too generic and NCSA's meaning is never expanded. Something meaningful like the first sentence from this about page would help.

To clear everything up, I would group the features: "rob pennington", "data to knowledge", "intelligent tech" together under a "features" umbrella. The main content nav should be more distinct and recognizable as main nav, and the dropdowns and search should be pulled together in a separate area as the "alternate" nav.

02 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Visual impact is only a priority for the one-track-minded marketing drones (and graphic designers with blinders on).

yeah but don't you get tired of seeing the same old same old stuff? Sometimes I wish I had blinders on.

Yes. The message IS most important. But a little emotion here and there...

02 Jun 2003 | hurley#1 said...

It's interesting to compare these samples with the actual live NCSA home page.

The live page is boring, to be sure, and the design is unbalanced with the too-small NCSA logo at top left and those weird kludgy buttons up top. No visual impact to speak of, but I think it would be easier for a user to find out what's on the live site than by perusing those "rectangular navigational bricks" on sample 2. I find that my eye drops naturally down the lefthand navbar on the live site, while my eye doesn't know what to do with the navigation on sample 2.

So while sample 2 creates a first impression of a more pleasing, peaceful site, the impression starts to change once you think about actually using it.

And just as an aside, does anyone actually use site maps? It seems to be one of those features that gets carried on because "you're supposed to have a site map."

02 Jun 2003 | Mathew said...

yeah but don't you get tired of seeing the same old same old stuff? Sometimes I wish I had blinders on

Not if I am actually trying to do something on the site. Maybe if I was looking for interesting design though.

Ideally, my memories of a site will be focused on how easy it was to find or do whatever my task was, not how nice it looked. Not that it hurts to have a unique visual appeal, as long as it doesn't get in the way.

03 Jun 2003 | ~bc said...

Normally, I'd jump right on topic two, but I'm still getting over your live music collection. Sweet. Do you have a legend on your site anywhere that would decode your recording field? I find the taping scene fascinating, and I'm interested in the stuff people use to record and archive the stuff as well as the funky tunes. If I ever get a high-speed connection, I'm going to start my collection of .shn's as I think I'm a little too lazy to start my collection the B+P route.

Topic 2: Simplicity is impactful in a world of noise.

03 Jun 2003 | alisha said...

Welcome Luke!
...and here I thought fajalar was up.
---
And just as an aside, does anyone actually use site maps?
---
yes! All the time. The reason being that I have no patience to dig around. But the quality of sitemaps has gone down making them less helpful than they used to be. I normally prefer sitmaps to search functions, which tend to be disasterous. I have to admit since google, I use them less.

I don´t think websites have to be simple to be fuctional. And I don´t think simple and clean is appropriate for all sites but I do agree that they need to be easy to use. They can be full of color and visual impact but most designers don´t spend enough time on the foundation or the functionality first and thier use of visuals often detracts instead of supporting and underlining the subject. I admit to striving for this but not always reaching it.

nice first post - nice examples.

03 Jun 2003 | Mixm said...

I think that all these sites that are linked to as examples above, from sample 1 & 2 to ibm, dell etc — suffer from too many choices on the start page. But somehow the corporate sites have a more consistant (logical, more structural) feel to them than sample 1 & 2. Of course 2 is better but I'd say its because all those irritating flashy lines and images have been removed. All pages shown are somewhat overdesigned in a strange anti-structural way. Example: sample 2's search bar where the yellow color background goes all the way to the left, under the menu-blocks, (why?).

Why don't the designer structure the front page with a simple 4 post-menu: ABOUT US, PROJECTS, HPC USERS, NEWS — in an easy to use "menu-looking", "menu-positioned" menu?

The rest of the active area on the front could have an explanation where I've ended up, i.e. What is the NCSA? And maybe some of the most recent news. If you have space, maybe add one of the current projects or something like that.

Many corporate-organizational sites today, try to say too much at once. Sometimes when you work with a big client (big organization) there are too many people inside the organization who wants say over the front page ("It must have this and that"). Posting your whole menu-system on the middle of the front page isnt a solution to this kind of problem.

03 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Not if I am actually trying to do something on the site. Maybe if I was looking for interesting design though.

Yeah, but:

"First, let's talk about what are the sources of value in a designed object. There are basically three of them: one is function, one is meaning, and one is pleasure. Function is important and is increasingly assumed, but it is not the differentiator. It used to be that both in culture and in business the emphasis was on function. Designers were brought in at the end of the process essentially as stylists. Now, while the function still has to be there, it is an expectation rather than a differentiator. The added value will come from meaning and pleasure, what I call aesthetics, the look and feel."

- Reflections on Aesthetics & Value

03 Jun 2003 | hurley#1 said...

Now, while the function still has to be there, it is an expectation rather than a differentiator. The added value will come from meaning and pleasure, what I call aesthetics, the look and feel.

Absolutely, but it's a tightrope act that's very difficult to pull off well. Designers obviously prefer having the freedom to create a thoughtful and innovative design, something that distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack. Usability folks want to ensure the design doesn't get in the way of function. The two goals frequently conflict, but a compromise can usually be found and those compromises produce the best Web sites -- those that look great and are intuitive and easy to use.

I think creativity can actually be enhanced by constraints, such as those imposed by usability requirements. When you take away all the constraints you get something like John Cage's x seconds of silence, which is about as ho-hum as you can get even though some people saw it as revolutionary.

We've all seen examples where form wins out over function, producing a beautiful but deeply flawed product. And we've also seen examples where function takes too much precedence over design considerations, producing something that works but is boring and brings no delight to the user. The real challenge is to work within the constraints of usability requirements to produce an innovative and aesthetically pleasing design.

03 Jun 2003 | Scrivs said...

While #2 is obviously the cleaner style it lacks the ability to give off any emotion for what the company is and what message they are striving to get across. I think we are starting to reach a point where we are simply looking for clear design and focusing on usability and totally forgetting that users have emotions that need to assessed. Clean design is good to get from point A to point B, but if I am not offered a pleasurable and long-lasting experience of the site I have no need to go back.

Site #2 helps me get to where I am going more readily than site #1 would, but it gives off the emotion and feeling (at least to me) that they are more of an art firm or something. Science to me is deep and complicated yet this site gives off the art puzzle vibe.

Hopefully in the near future we can reach a medium where 37Signals design meets 2advanced design, then I believe we can have the 'clean' experience.

Hmmm, now that I read hurley's post it seems we are saying the same things. So basically I agree with ^^^^^^ :)

03 Jun 2003 | Scrivs said...

By the way Luke, I love your book...read it everytime I go to Border's or Barnes and Nobles. In fact think I am going to buy it today seeing how I get paid :)

03 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...

(sheepishly) I don't care for either one. Sorry.

But Luke, YOUR site is great.

03 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Oh ... and ... Where Are The WMD's???????????

03 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

Luke said: "Yeah, but: ..."

Luke, from the same article you quoted from:
"There may be technological or economic reasons to keep things standardized but the pressures are towards personalization. People want more choice. There are exceptions of course: people don't seem to want major appliances in crazy colors. They tend to stick to the tried and true. Whether that is because nothing has caught people's imagination or people are risk averse."

03 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

Luke, I think you have a point but don't think beauty in appearance, think beauty in interaction.

03 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

people don't seem to want major appliances in crazy colors.

Do they want their web sites in crazy colors? :)

Since we're quoting:
“Interactive design [is] a seamless blend of graphic arts, technology, and psychology.”
Brad Wieners, 2002

Takes them all to to make a successful user experience. All I am saying is visual impact has a place in Web design. Of course, it shouldn't be the focus. But neither should the technology, nor the usability.

One more and I'm out:

“We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone.” -Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility, 2002

oh yeah, the music thing:
Do you have a legend on your site anywhere that would decode your recording field?

All I know is microphone > pre-amp > decoder >dat
But if you are interested:
The Incomplete Guide to Deciphering Those Confusing Combinations of Letters and Numbers that Seem All Too Important to Some People

ok, now I'm out.

03 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

Luke said: "Do they want their web sites in crazy colors? "

Well, substitute 'crazy colors' with 'unique layout, altered perspective'.
Although I like the unique subtle colors (compared to Dell, HP, etc) of example 2 - Hey, you have changed example 2! :) - I agree with most comments made by others about the layout.
But I don't want to say a 'unique layout or altered perspective' can never be good.

By the way do you have some research to back this up:
"Subtle colors, a unique layout, altered perspective, and more can often engage an audience more effectively than a barrage of focal points."

Just asking ;)

03 Jun 2003 | Scrivs said...

In web design today it seems that the only thing that is standardized is the use of global navigation and including a footer on every page. When it comes to colors I think it's still a wide open playing field. For appliances, yes its good to keep a single color because they serve different purposes than interactive media. For example, a toaster doesn't offer the same experience as a television commerical. People wish to stick to standards when it comes to appliances because they already know what they wish to use them for and therefore don't need something aesthetically pleasing.

In contrast, if you have a new visitor to your website and you want to differentiate yourself from your competition why would you use the same look and feel as them? Its hard to top google not because of the technology, but because of the simplicity of its design. The colors it incorporates fit perfectly because it invokes the feeling of simplicity to a very complex process.

03 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Did somebody say "Toaster"?

This is a toaster.

03 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

yeah but don't you get tired of seeing the same old same old stuff?

Even though I'm a graphic designer, my answer is 'no'. I don't get tired. I'm all for better and more 'exciting' visual presentation, but that should always come second to meeting the needs of the user.

When I go to HP, I want to get my printer driver and leave. When I go to Dell, I want to order my computer and leave. When I go to Microsoft, well, ok, that site sucks on many levels.

Point being, one should NEVER visually design a site before getting the navigation, content, and functionality straightened out. Once that is figured out, everything falls into place naturally.

I've worked with WAY too many firms that present a Photoshop Mockup of the visual look FIRST. Which is just incredibly moronic, IMHO.


And just as an aside, does anyone actually use site maps?

Yep. Typically when a site is designed like I describe above. When it's done that way, the navigation and organization is usually shit, so I hafta use the site map just to find basic information.

[silly visual designer quote] - Reflections on Aesthetics & Value

Well, what do you *expect* the AIGA to say about it? ;o)

The pleasure *I* get out of sites is that I can find what I'm looking for or that it does something that I need/want. Yes, nice visuals are a bonus, but not at the expense of the other two factors.

Of course, it shouldn't be the focus. But neither should the technology, nor the usability.

Well, this is where you and I would disagree. FUNCTION has to be the focus. There's no point in just having a pretty site. It serves no purpose. A site can be ugly as hell, but if it functions, hey, it's going to be useful to someone. Yes, if it functions AND looks great, bonus. Form follows function. Form follows function. Form follows function...


“We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone.” -Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility, 2002

OK, I do agree with this one (and am probably beginning to sound hypocritical).

Again, though, if function and technology is planned and focused on up front (along with content!), creating the visual design to lay on top of it and interact with it becomes so much more viable and easier to do.

03 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

BTW, your book looks intersting...will take a look at it next chance I get...

03 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Again, though, if function and technology is planned and focused on up front (along with content!), creating the visual design to lay on top of it and interact with it becomes so much more viable and easier to do.

No arguments whatsoever on that excellent point. but here I go starting trouble again:

“Form follows function-that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

03 Jun 2003 | Scrivs said...

“Form follows function-that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”

Nuff said right there.

03 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

Yea, I do agree with FLW. Again, though, if the engineering doesn't come first, the structure will fall down no matter the form. (Which is true of many of his own structures ;o)

03 Jun 2003 | dmr said...

"Visual impact is only a priority for the one-track-minded marketing drones (and graphic designers with blinders on)."

Well, bullshit! Ya can't defeat the culture; we live in a style culture and there isn't much turning back now. Not to say I agree with the style perspective, but I feel so absolutely trapped most of the time. While I lust for working with the clients 37 Signals seems to have the best of luck with, I seem to get stuck with the 'photoshop comp' people, talking about FONT this and FONT that. Is there a way out? Am I doomed to be a button-pushing weenie till I'm 55?

It helps to have a fine art background in the discussion as visual art's core is standing on the corner of style and content.

So, how does one propose solving this great rotting culture of style? 270lb fat people walking around with Tommy shirts, 'iced-out' wrists & necks and the $145 Nikes, bumpin' Eminem in their Navigator; where's the content? I still haven't come to terms with most people are goddamn sheep; am I an artsy-fartsy-liberal-intellectual-fuck now?

03 Jun 2003 | Steve said...

Neither one of those examples works particularly well, as far as I'm concerned. #2 is certainly less disjointed and fits much more closely with the way the eye naturally moves around a page.

While I'm not a designer, I manage designers, IAs, etc. and have a pretty good sensibility for good design. One of the things I've found most helpful in evaluating a homepage design's effectiveness is the parallel it with my previous life in newspapers. The way the eye moves around a page is pretty consistent regardless of medium. In general, it follows a sort of reverse 6, starting at the upper left corner. That's why you'll see newspapers putting promos along the top of the page, lower right corner and left margin. Conicidnetally (or not), that's the way many web pages are set up (and it's one of the many reasons Jakob Nielsen is wrong on the point that navigation should be on the right).

The second design is closer to the normal flow of eyesight, but at least my line of sight is disrupted by the center navigational elements and never make it to the lower corners of the page. Maybe that's the desired effect. I certainly feel more at ease looking at this page than the first, where there are too many competiting elements that cause my eye to dart around. People don't like having their eyes dart around.

One thing potentially missed in this discussion is that someone has made a decision to cram so much information on the home page that any designer is going to have a hell of a challenge not making the page look cluttered, busy and disjointed. That's why it's important to have IAs and designers collaborate throughout the process; if a designer had stepped in at a wireframe stage and said it's going to be a big pain in the ass getting this page to work, a rethinking could have occurred.

03 Jun 2003 | dmr said...

A good point Steve, I find both designs to offer too much exposed hierarchy; both could be more concise. This takes time tho, and a good understanding of what people are really looking for on a site, and an organizations criteria for making value judgements for including/excluding/developing new material for the web.

Answer me this
What's the best way to hold the clients hand for this kind of re-organization process? Is it possible to offer truly thoughtful solutions when so many people want surface design, offering similar toned content (topical and surfical)?

I can't tell everyone how many times I have encountered clients who simply don't want to spend the time creating thoughtful structure to build upon. Actually, I haven't found a client yet who doesn't have this perspective (having worked for 30+ clients now).

03 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

What's the best way to hold the clients hand for this kind of re-organization process? Is it possible to offer truly thoughtful solutions when so many people want surface design, offering similar toned content (topical and surfical)?

In my experience, the way to do this is to *not* show visual design or even bring up visual design issues until *after* content and functionality are in a final or close to final state of approval.

This is typically done with wireframe development.

One key issue, I find, is that the client *must* be able to click through the site. You can not possibly expect a client to properly approve of a site based on a photoshop print out. The client doesn't 'get' that it is a web site...just a pretty visual. The client will *not* 'get' that it is a web site until they are actually clicking through it. This is where the wireframe can easily kill two birds...

Then, once the client has refined/changed/tweaked their content/site goals/objectives/functionality, the visual presentation is next, and both the client AND the visual designers can now concentrate on the visual design alone, or they can work on improving some of the wireframe functionality with more robust visual presentation.

All that said, I must say with deep sorrow, that the only client that we got to fully implement the above methedology on was also had SEVERE visual hang ups. It turned out in the end, that all they really were concerned about was the stock photo on the home page, or what color to make the banner.

Sadly, while the project methodology was good, the final solution wasn't. They ignored a lot of the user testing, a lot of established research, and ended up spending a lot of money.

Oh well.

03 Jun 2003 | B said...

In my experience, the way to do this is to *not* show visual design or even bring up visual design issues until *after* content and functionality are in a final or close to final state of approval.

Bingo. Visual design shouldn't even be an issue until you've nailed down the content, structure and functionality. Once that is finalized and approved, then you can begin moving into design. Since "design" is the final piece of the puzzle, it has to work within the framework that has already been established. This helps prevent wacky designs and bad visual decisions from dictating the entire project. Instead, the design forms around the content, structure, and functionality. It supports everything else instead of leading it.

03 Jun 2003 | dmr said...

Darrel, you get at something core to my concerns; while it's easy to speak of complete redesigns (structure and textual & visual content) this seems to be near impossible under the realities of personalities, org charts and politics.

Let's hear it from the people above posting about ideal circumstances; is this a reality more often than not?

03 Jun 2003 | hurley#1 said...

It turned out in the end, that all they really were concerned about was the stock photo on the home page, or what color to make the banner.

That sounds too familiar. Appearances really do matter to clients, but the choices tend to be very arbitrary.

The clients who are the most difficult to work with are those who know just enough to be dangerous: they read a few chapters of one of Nielsen's books and believe they are now experts on usability, or their husband is an architect, which makes them believe they have a special insight on graphic design. Actually what's even worse is the clients who have strong negative reactions to a design but can't articulate what it is they don't like or what they would prefer instead, so you're left shooting in the dark. That's been my main experience (not that I'm a designer myself, but I work with designers on Web and print projects that I manage).

03 Jun 2003 | dmr said...

One last thing, we are all well-versed with the abstract nature of all this (philosophies and otherwise), but many cannot think in these terms (middle- and upper-management; think dilbert, seriously). Working with these types all the time, it's very difficult to articulate the framework without abstraction of the whole process. People want the visual first, no matter how much you tell them otherwise, you won't change their desires; they are style sheep! Or maybe I just need to move out of Florida. =[

Baaaah, Baaaaaaaaah!

03 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...

People want the visual first, no matter how much you tell them otherwise, you won't change their desires; they are style sheep! Or maybe I just need to move out of Florida. =[

Agreed, which is why I work with people to first design "workflows." Granted, this is an artifact of my working on Web apps, and not Web sites, but most of the people I work with can understand the importance of ironing out the workflow first.

I rarely use phrases like "task analysis," or "function allocation diagram/table," or any other industry jargon.

They don't need to know anything about what I do. All I need to say is, "Let's figure out what you want them to do and once that is defined, the how will present itself."

So I don't exactly agree that form and function should be joined in development. But, again, I am in a Web app world of late.

03 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...

Another tip (of sorts) for those who work with clients that are focused on colors and pretty pictures...

Get about 10 to 20 users (or as many as you can get 7+/- 2 :P) to drawn an org chart of the company (this exercise sometimes even works for Intranet design). Usually, users will draw something that is nothing like how the company works organizationally.

The exercise is not to get the company to change organizationally, but to get the people you work with to focus on architecture and interaction issues. Because we can't let users get lost on the site just because they don't work at the company.

In general, it just cracks me up how companies continue to design their Internet sites based on how the company functions internally.

04 Jun 2003 | alisha said...

“Form follows function-that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
---
oooh. that one got me.
---
I can't tell everyone how many times I have encountered clients who simply don't want to spend the time creating thoughtful structure to build upon.
---
I agree completely with Darrel and B. We tell our clients from day one that the site structure is the foundation and they´re going to have to let us take them through the briefing process to establish the site structure first. Without this foundation the site is doomed for failure from the start. I often tell them students would maybe be more interested in getting right to the "pretty and fun" part, but we as professionals, are interested in a building something robust, flexible and solid. We can´t afford to build sites that devaluate quickly and lack value. In other words, a bit of preaching at the start of the relationship about the evils of weak foundations seems to scare them into agreement. But it doesn´t work everytime - and those are usually the sites that I never put in my portfolio.

04 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

What I learned as a product designer is to use rough sketches in early stages of development.
This way clients don't fixate on the details: "I don't like this round button at the top. Is it 6 or 7 mm in diameter?" and you can talk about the big picture.
An added bonus: you don't waste all the time making 1 drawing stunning (something a lot of starting students still do). Explaining this to the client can help.

04 Jun 2003 | Mixm said...

We are a bit off topic here but the discussions are still interesting. Still they are the most interesting when they have practical bearing.

dmr said...
(... ) People want the visual first, no matter how much you tell them otherwise, you won't change their desires; they are style sheep!

Dont go for this option. It is unwise and you will get a severe lashback if you do.

I find that a good way to present design for the client is to

FIRST: show them structured pages without design. I.e. with black boxes with text where you describe which kind of content goes where. You have an excellent chance to explain why you have placed the menu (or any othet content area) where youve placed it. The focus here is on content and structure. The client have great opportunities to critizise and question at this stage but the discussion is more controlled.

If you do this right you have the (choosing of) content & structure cleared before moving on to the next stage. By this time the clients are usually jumping with excitement just to see the design. I find that the key is not to rush this first discussion, for me it usually takes up about 3/4 of the time of the presentation.

THEN: Show them your carefully designed pages. If you prefer, show this in stages as well, explaining choice of colors and typography, examplify menu navigation and so on.

04 Jun 2003 | Mixm said...

I missed the italics on dmr's quote. It ends with "they are style sheep!"

04 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Black, white, and boxey before you give them foxey.

04 Jun 2003 | aliotsy said...

Wow...this has certainly been a fascinating discussion.

In regards to the original question: while I think the second version is better than the first, I was a little put off by the placement of the navigation. While I usually look to see what a new site is about and then look for navigation, the current design forces navigation to the forefront. Oddly enough, I initially didn't read what was inside the navigation boxes: I scanned the rest of the page first to find an "About us" link or blurb, and then went back to navigation.

I was wondering: does anyone know a site where a community of designers and developers can ask for and give feedback on a site design, especially in relation to usability? This exercise was fun and beneficial, and I'd certainly like to do it more often.

05 Jun 2003 | alisha said...

From my experience, the website structure/development and design are two separate phases and if I would describe the 1st phase (structure) with scribbles, my clients would get hung up on the fact that it´s presented in a semi-visual way. I also never take more than one visual design with me for presentation. I feel I need to hit it on the head or else the client needs to explain to me why I didn´t. It´s risky but I feel like a trenchcoat watch salesman when I bring more than one design. I´ve only had failure with this when the briefing was flawed. I also usually don´t give long-winded introductions - 10 minutes tops. Then I take them through the screens step by step explaining layout, features and design.

05 Jun 2003 | 8500 said...

I also never take more than one visual design with me for presentation... I´ve only had failure with this when the briefing was flawed.

In my experience most creative briefs are near useless when trying to discover what look and feel the client wants - Even when they are taken from the clients own words. Often the client doesn't even know what they want until they see it.

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