Don’t Be Afraid to Rethink Your Design

The hardest thing for me, as a webdesigner, is to admit that a design of mine is just not up to par…especially when it feels like I’ve spent months crafting the stupid thing. Layouts and UIs take so long for me to think up and code, so it’s disappointing when I get to the end of the process and find that I’m dissatisfied with the product.

This is what’s happened to my latest domain layout, version 14, which has sat finished on my hard drive for about 5 months. Here’s what it looks like so far:

v14_ugh
I just can’t get up the gumption to let it go live, because I’m not QUITE satisfied with it. There’s something wrong with it, but I can’t exactly name what it is yet. So I’ve been sitting in “Layout Limbo,” pretty frustrated with myself.

I would guess I’m not the first or only webdesigner to feel like this, however. Come to think of it, we all end up with projects that just FEEL like they need redoing, for some reason. This impulse, contrary to my fears, is not a wasteful, horrible thing; it can serve as the impetus to keep doing BETTER, to keep making things more awesome. And it doesn’t just entail hitting Delete and starting all over again!

Step 1: Pinpoint What You Love about Your Design

Before you hit Backspace and delete all your code, and before you select and delete all your images, take a careful, thorough look at your design. What do you love about it, if anything? It can be even a really small thing, like the font you used, or a particular color.

v14_sidebarcool For instance, I love this cool little sidebar I developed for version 14. The simplicity of the icons, and how they pop against the background color, look tidy and sharp…plus, I like the font I used for the “social networks” and “affiliates” text.

I also like the navbar at the top of the page (which is a sticky navbar, yay)–I like that the main navigation scrolls with the page rather than getting lost.

When you find design elements that you like, make sure you note what they are, and copy/paste code and images so you don’t lose them. This is key to the “scrapping and remaking” process; if you don’t have anything to go on, you’ll be more stuck than you were with an unsatisfactory design!

Step 2: Figure Out What You Hate about Your Design

This is a tough one, but you have to confront it if you’re going to fix the problem. Really take time to look at your design–your choices of font, color, and basic content layout, your link styles, your images, EVERYTHING. What in your design sets your teeth on edge?

In studying my version 14 design, one of the things I keep saying to myself is “it’s so DARK.” The background is a lovely deep purple, but it almost feels so dark that it’s “flat”–it doesn’t seem to have much life in it. The lack of images also disturbs me subtly; it’s as if there’s nothing to brand my site, to make it look different. I was trying to go with the whole modern “mobile-friendly sleek and sexy” site look that’s so popular right now, but I think I may have gone overboard and turned it soulless instead. Even the addition of a few little curlicue images don’t seem to add enough spice.

As you observe your design with a similar critical eye, make notes about the things that bother you. But don’t delete your code or images just yet! There’s one more critical step!

Step 3: How Do You Fix These Problems AND Keep Your Favorite Stuff?

Now that you’ve gone through and figured out what you love and hate about your design, you need to know how to implement changes without losing the stuff you liked most. This is why I said don’t delete anything yet–you may only need to make small changes to your existing layout.

For instance, my main complaints on version 14 are that the background color seems too dark, and that the layout is overall lacking images, which would give it visual personality. Yet I like the sidebar and the top navigation bar. In my case, the colors and personality issues can be fixed easily without getting rid of the happy little sidebar and navbar–I can lighten the background color and darken text colors to maintain readability, and I can add in small images to demonstrate my personality without overwhelming the layout. (I don’t think I need a mid-2000s giant header image, but at least SOMETHING pretty and visual, right?)

Think about how you can blend problem fixes with the stuff you’re already happy with, and you’re halfway to a new design already! (And, if you end up having to scrap your design completely, don’t worry; it’s a learning experience if nothing else!)

Summary

Rethinking a design doesn’t mean you’re a horrible designer, nor does it mean you’ve failed–actually, it means you want to make a better product for your users to enjoy. Listen to those little tugs on your brain that say, “Hey, something doesn’t look right here!” Embrace that impulse to tweak, perfect, and shape your design to your heart’s content. You’ll be much happier with the end result!

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