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Great design is…well…great. It’s all the things we hope for when we start a project. It’s user-friendly. It’s pretty. It’s functional. It solves problems that sometimes the user didn’t even know they had. It creates a good experience. It establishes or furthers a brand. It just works in every sense of the word. If a design isn’t doing all these things and more, it’s not great. Great design cannot create problems and still remain great. Lets look at a few things that are encompassed in this term.
Everyone out there has had problems using a website at some point or another. It could be something as simple as the navigation not working properly. Maybe you weren’t able to find something or came across a site that requires an updated Flash player. What great design does is solve problems, not create them. Instead of making users search for information for ten minutes before they finally stumble across it, it shows them exactly how to get there in just a few clicks. This could be an incredible new search function or a well thought out drop down menu. Keep these things in mind when designing as they will make or break your design no matter how beautiful it is.
Instead of confusing the user with a mess of content they don’t care to read, great design shows them exactly where to go to find what they want. It’s like dropping little breadcrumbs along the way to the exact content they’re looking for. Show them where to go and what they need and they will be back after having a positive experience. This is what great design is all about…keep it simple, keep it useful.
Okay so maybe it doesn’t have to be beautiful, but that certainly helps. And most of the time when I come across truly great design, it’s beautiful too because if you really know how to design, you understand usability. Most designer’s websites are a reflection of what they can do for clients so take this as a hint to work on your own if you feel inclined to do so. The visual part of a site is becoming more and more necessary anyway due to things like Google’s new search feature that pops up an image of the site upon rollover. Things like this are popping up everywhere on the net and people will slowly begin to choose the nicer looking sites over the other ones, even if it’s subconsciously. So while useable doesn’t have to equate to beautiful, it pretty much does.
Ah, the notorious effective website. The website that actually does something. It’s not stagnant. It’s constantly updated. It’s never boring. It’s never useless. This is the day and age we live in. We live in a time where information is immediately at our fingertips and there’s a website or webapp to do just about anything you want. A great design is completely and utterly pointless even if it has everything else we’ve mentioned but fails to be effective. If it doesn’t get the point or convey the message it needs to very clearly, there’s something wrong. Take note of what works for you on sites and make sure to incorporate those into your designs. Push the limits of technology a bit even if you’re slowly nudging your audience to understand something new. Just make sure you don’t lose them during the process.
There’s more to say for sure but that’s all I’m covering in this article. The point was to help remind you that great design is the ultimate goal. I think design trends are awesome when used properly and when they make sense. I also think they push the industry forward and that they are vital for helping us to do just that. The important thing to remember is not to fall prey to getting stuck in the rut they can cause. Be sure to keep climbing and furthering your work. Take what you will from this, but remember the ultimate goal.