Soma Over The Counter

Graphic Design
08/17
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22 Responses to “Soma Over The Counter”

  1. W3Spor

    Thank you!

    Very interesting blogpost about important issue.

    Best regards

  2. Dave Sparks

    Nice post - Personally if I can justify a move away from conventions, w3 standard then I’ll do it.
    However just throwing complete caution to the wind can lead to a sloppy approach and lazy, bad coding.
    However as you said conventions and standards shouldn’t be laws to live by more rules to guide.

  3. Thijs Visser

    Great point.

    In fact visual design and usability are not tradeoffs of eachother. These are not subjects that run parallel of eachother. The one can enforce the other, as they should.

    Think about it. Consider form validation, you can use brand colors for those messages. You could also use buttons and links with good affordances combined with the brand color(s) so the buttons stand out.
    Yes, sometimes it’s hard to intertwine the two, but as a designer it’s our job to try so.

    Problems show up if a designer doesn’t recognise this and ignores visual design completely for the sake of usability (wrong conclusion Mr Nielsen).

    We could better get a sense of how the human mind works in order to design better, in stead of following conventions in the hope that these conventions will work on our own sites.

  4. Edgar Leijs

    Tricky subject. For real creativity, great inspirational design and true inventions, we, yes, have to move away from all thinkable conventions… but as the majority of the mob can only function by conventions it’s a thin line between design ‘sense’ and ‘nonsense’. Yep, we need proper coding, but that is just taking care of a descent website engine… WordPress themes had brought us boring weblayouts with some genius design sauced upon it, but WP/blog layouts don’t need to be a standard… please go beyond y’all!

  5. Jeff

    I agree with your take on “usability conventions” most of them are silly, however there are benefits to creating sites that users are familiar with already. The goal should be to get them to the content they are seeking as efficiently as possible not frustrate them with something you think is aesthetically pleasing. (Users may disagree on its aesthetic merits anyway)

    Example; users are very familiar with and expect to see main navigation either along the top or down the left side of the page. Clients (the ones who ultimately pay our bills) expect the same thing. We may disagree with that design paradigm, but it is THEIR expectation.

    All designers and artists have limits they need to work within, the canvas has a limited size and shape, the stone is only so big, the patron will only spend X dollars, etc. The real challenge and joy is practicing the discipline to work creatively within those limits.

  6. Ray Gulick

    Absolutely agree that usability is not a B/W issue. Designers have to make intelligent choices with audience needs and design goals in mind: those provide the context in which design choices must be made.

  7. Max

    All design in the real world involves compromise, whether online or offline. Our company philosophy is to take each project on its own merits and not to start off with a set of usability ‘constraints’. Concepts are developed within a relatively flexible framework in order to ensure that creative ideas are not stifled before they have a chance to properly evolve. We’ll then analyse the concepts before we show the client and assess where we can improve the usability without losing the sense of the original design. The nature of the site, and the site’s objectives (for example, are we looking to build awareness of a brand or sell product directly?) will usually dictate to what level we compromise on the original design.

  8. Zinni

    Thank you everyone for your passionate and valid comments.

    Jeff,

    Example; users are very familiar with and expect to see main navigation either along the top or down the left side of the page…. We may disagree with that design paradigm, but it is THEIR expectation

    In a traditional sense this may be true, but there are so many different scenarios where navigation can be atypical yet intuitive. It is possible to break conventions such as they and still create something that users will intuitively understand. It is not really an issue of convention, just visual clues to the intended purpose of the element (in this case the navigation).

    Max,

    I think your company’s approach reinforces the goal of what I am proposing. To put conventions aside for a moment to consider what possibilities exist. This is not to say that we completely forget them, just not let them limit our approach. Thank you for sharing your process.

  9. Max

    Zinni
    I agree that with you that it is not always an issue of convention, as long as the visual clues are obvious enough.

    If you’re going to break usability conventions (by using non-standard form fields, for example) it is usually a good idea to make the visual cues that surround them more explicit than they might otherwise be. In my example this might be a prominent header explaining that it is a form and that you should fill it in.

    “This is not to say that we completely forget them, just not let them limit our approach.”
    I think this sums it up perfectly and would be an excellent starting point for anyone beginning their next website design.

  10. David Hamill

    I agree with your point about this FAIL thing. It’s beginning to annoy me. Good usability in your design comes from understanding principles rather than applying rules.

    However I would encourage you to watch usability tests as often as you have the chance. Your opinions on the subject may change a little.

    You talk about websites being boring and you wanting to create beauty. I get the feeling that creating visually different and appealing designs is where you get enjoyment from your work. This is very important, but don’t let it get in the way of providing something that actually works. You’ll be surprised how much of an affect a small tweak in your design can make.

    In all honesty most people will visit your design, do what they came to do and then promptly forget it. They’ll remember it if you’ve annoyed them.

    You have a desire for websites to be different because you are a designer. Most people aren’t designers. They care a lot less than you do about how nice the design is. As I say, beauty is important. But not as important as I think you believe it to be.

  11. Cedric Dugas

    It also really depend what you are trying to achieve with your website, if you are doing en e-commerce website for example, usability is really important,

    the more you get it right with usability, the more you got chances that someone interested by your product buys it

  12. jp

    it’s never about BORING web, because the web was “made” by engineers, not by visual artists. But, what about japanese style in web? They reach minimalism, usability and functionality on web. A site can be both, usable and esthetically outstanding and i’m quite sure that japanese web designers has the word on that.

    i.e.: http://www.uniqlo.com/calendar/

  13. Patric Schmid

    I understand your issues with the binary approach. The problem i see is also demonstrated in the comments here..

    usability is seen as a constraint on design - why is that?

    a usability-aware designer should have the ability to do whatever his creativity allows - of course knowing the “good” and “less-good” side of his design and maybe, with this knowledge, avoid most of the “less-good” stuff.

    The Rules and Conventions are only made for designers who don’t even THINK about usability in the process - and then of course have to do a “checklist” to find the bad spots -> cuts the design afterwards

    I encourage every designer, who feels “limited” through usability - go understand WHY something is less good, watch usability-tests live, read on the subject,…
    if you know the advantages it’s no longer a constraint!

    Anyway, if your new creative design “does not suck” in the usability tests - then don’t listen to conventions and checklists!

    Regards
     Patric

  14. Ben Rama

    shouldnt it be as simple as if it works it works in an ideal world great post - thanks

  15. Tom Hermans

    Although I want a website to be visually appealing, and to stand out etc.. I also want it to be a handy instrument that is easy to navigate..
    That’s why some usability conventions make sense.. designers look at “what works”, tracking and measurement tools do the rest.

    Joe Average does not surf like someone who spends his life online, like me. You’d be surprised if you “surf along over their shoulders” how difficult they all find their way over various sites.

    That’s definitely something to take into consideration before designing a new revolutionary interface..

    See also other kinds of applications, be it a microwave, a cell phone, or even the layout of a magazine.. their are certain rules to follow (or not) that in the end make sense.

    Tom.

  16. Luci

    Conventions and standards, in my mind, are different kettles of fish. Standards, like coding standards, I think exist for good reasons, however I agree that conventions shouldn’t be used mindlessly for the sake of a quick and easy design. Unfortunately ‘usability’ is so set in stone that it seems almost impossible to break out of it because clients inevitably don’t like an UNconventional design.

  17. Daus

    I don’t think there is “rules” in webdesign. It is just trend, and people (read: designer) often “trapped” in between serving an innovative design and client requests on “following trends”.

  18. estudio web

    Muy buen blog de diseño! great blog! thanks from Argentina.

  19. Joshua

    Being more of a graphic designer than a web designer, I think I can agree with the concept here. I do a lot of web layout mockups to send to developers, so I work a lot with usability buffs. I think I tend to make a site as attractive as possible, then make minor (extremely) minor tweaks to the PSD to make it as usable as possible without sacrificing any quality design.

    BUT, that’s the opinion of a graphic designer. Web developers and designers may or may not have a completely different opinion on the matter. I’ll keep reading up on the comments on the post to see if you’ve started a fire in the design community with this one. And I will eat inside of that building.

  20. James Kemp

    In the end, everything thing is designed. Plain things are still designed, but with usability in mind.

    The two bounce off each other, and usually something that is well designed has also kept usability in mind, oftentimes it is the designer who needs to work out how to do it.

    The rules are there as a guideline, and usually, to do well it is in best intentions to follow them.

    Once you know the rules well, then it is up to you if you know how to break them well.

Trackbacks

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