Starting Your Project on the Right Foot (and Keeping It There)

20 Comments

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  1. Chris

    Like Paul, I design from the inside out, starting with the most important content-type on the website.

    If the product page is going to do the heavy lifting in generating conversions, then that should be the main focus of my design efforts.

    From there, I design a nice comfy couch for the content to sit in. When it comes time to create the homepage, most of the difficult design decisions have been made, and you can use your existing framework to build new components that will get users exploring.

    This is all completely backwards from how I did things 4 years ago- starting with just a homepage mockup with dummy text, and finding out later that the most important content didn’t fit with the rigid layout implied by my homepage.

  2. Andrew Volk

    Pausing a project (design, coding or writing) on any type of victory, epic or minor, is huge. Great advice throughout but that is the best thing I think people will take from this.

    Thanks Bethany!

  3. Theo

    You make a lot of valid points in this article but the part i like the most comes when it comes to content: “Design speaks to content, and content speaks to design.”
    I always encourage my clients to write content, but in the most cases i end up waiting for the content with a finished design based on the discussions i had with them. Don’t get me wrong, i will never blame a client for a poorly designed website, i just want to say – it would be nice if the client would realise the importance of content.
    A client told me once as we spoke about a poor content delivered by his marketing team: “…i should not put so much heart in it, it’s only a website.”

  4. Thomas van Dijk

    The starting from the footer part sounds funny but it might be a cool way to avoid doing the same thing over and over again. A lot of my designs look “samey” and I’ve been looking for a trick to get away from that. Thanks for this useful tip!

  5. ana bee

    Do you guys have any insights on how to describe content (dynamic, can’t be ready from the get-go) to best suit designer’s needs?
    cheers

  6. Ally

    Feeling really inspired by this article!! There are a lot of points here I’d carry into my own work. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Chatman R.

    I should really make it a point to look at more inspiration. I wouldn’t say I’m scrambling when it’s time to brainstorm for a project, but looking at some sites with a similar mission to the one I’m building has knocked a few rocks loose on occasion.

    For me, design starts with a pen and paper and a bit of research. It helps me to figure out what is feasible earlier. On personal projects I can go nuts, but client projects will always require a more focused approached. I like experimenting, but I also don’t like wasting valuable time on a potential idea only to find out it isn’t doable for that project.

    When time allows, I also set up a quick style guide to inform decisions made on current and future versions. I like to concentrate on the overall look and feel of a design and harmonize that in its content, typography, and overall visual appeal until its personality emerges. And once that’s been nailed down, every version after is simply refinement of that personality.

    Might be romanticizing it a little, but I love creating on the web.

  8. Helen Lindley

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that spends hours nudging elements by 1px and still getting nowhere!

    Very helpful advice, especially about having a plan for starting and stopping. I went home last Friday with something not working right and it was all I could think of all weekend.

  9. Paul

    I’m not sure about starting with the footer (never tried) but I tend to start with content blocks, since those tend to be important. The design of messaging content in the header, action items in the sidebar, or even what a blog post looks like. and build “out” from there.

  10. Reece

    I think you’ve covered some really important issues here – as you say, content is king! This is a motto we commonly use in our office! I agree with you when you say ‘there is nothing more crucial to the success of a design than having the content defined from the outset’. Great article, thank you Bethany!

  11. Robin

    Great article, very interesting points. I’m a developer, not a designer, but I think a lot of this applies to my working process too.

    I do have one question though, about content speaking to design – aren’t you often designing for a highly mutable system? Like a CMS – where editors will be changing the content often, probably even before the site is launched? Doesn’t this prevent you from designing to the content so much?

  12. Scott Dawson

    I really enjoyed the article, and it prompted me to think more about my own process. I’ll pay close attention in the future, but I’m pretty sure that after defining the overall grid, I typically start fine-grained coding in the footer when converting from design to HTML. Thanks also for the great design resources!

  13. roninweb

    Wise words on the nitpicking part! Sometimes you can lose yourself in a tiny detail and forget about the bigger picture. Hate it when thtat happens.

  14. roninweb

    Wise words on the nitpicking part! Sometimes you can lose yourself in a tiny detail and forget about the bigger picture. Hate it when thtat happens.

  15. Prisca

    Bethany,

    thanks for a very inspiring article — I agree with your point about collecting plenty of inspiring design sources to help you stay immersed.
    Love your tips – leave off on a positive note before you take a break ~ perfect ;)
    Will pass this on to my webdesign students :-)

    Thank you.

  16. Henk

    Very helpful post to find new inspiration Bethany Heck.

    When making a new design it is indeed very hard to always come with something new and fresh. When you do the one project after the other you discover that a lot of the projects look almost the same.

    Those links you gave are a very good tip to make it easier to get inspired and to think on other possibilities to use in a design.

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