How do you even begin on a great web design project? Is it ‘in the browser’ when you start coding it and playing with elements? Or is it in Photoshop where you can toy around with elements, sizes and positions? This is an old debate that has been raging between web designers for years, but in fact the answer should be ‘neither’.
Actually, web design begins in the shower. Well, it’s the shower according to recent research but really the location doesn’t matter that much. Web design you see, really begins in your head; it starts the moment you have a good idea on the theme for your site.
Introducing the Design Concept
This is your design ‘concept’ and it’s the point where you come up with the general approach you want to take in your web design, or the idea that you want it to revolve around. This is actually the most important part of your web design of all. If your vision for your site is based on a terrible idea, then it doesn’t matter how good your design team is, the end product still won’t work. A bad idea done well is still a bad idea.
That’s not to say that people don’t approach a web design without a vision at all – in fact it happens often which is why you see so many generic and bland looking sites around the web. But if you want your website to really stand out and get attention, then you need to approach it with a great idea.
How to Have Creative Ideas
This then leaves us with the question of how you get creative ideas in the first place.
There are many thoughts on this (here’s a great TED talk on the topic), but generally it is agreed that ‘eureka’ moments are quite rare: good ideas tend to be the result of gestation, refinement and discussion.
This is why many designers and creative types will use tools like mind maps, free association and mood boards (Pinterest has a lot of good examples) in order to throw ideas together and see what starts to emerge. Write down everything that relates to your niche and your industry, everything that you like to see in web design and everything you see commonly on competitors’ sites. Ask others to contribute to this process too and as you do this you should start to see ideas emerge as you make connections, resulting in something unique and creative.
You can also use a number of thought exercises in order to try and trigger unique ideas and approaches to your web design. This might mean asking yourself how you can subvert the expectations of web design within your niche in an effective manner. It might mean asking whether you can incorporate skueomorphism.
You should also ask what the objectives are that you are aiming for and which design decisions might best serve those. Try imagining how someone else might approach the web design, or whether you can take cues from designs in other niches. Ask yourself what your brand is really about and how you can portray that in your design.
By asking the right questions and throwing lots of ideas at the wall, you might just be surprised with the ideas that eventually emerge!