A friend of mine and I were discussing one of our recent website designs for a new customer. ItÂ happened to include an embellished fleur-de-lis and as we were reviewing the relative merits of theÂ design she noted that she could see Dumbo the elephant in profile in one of the arms. It took me a while,Â but there it was, Dumbo the elephant â€“ drat.
Now every time I look at this home page design it looks like Dumbo is making a break for it off the righthand side of the screen.
It reminded me of a play by Don Nigro which recounts a famous moment in art history where PicassoÂ manages to convince his painter friend Braque that there is a squirrel in the bottom corner of one ofÂ his paintings. Braque becomes obsessed trying to obliterate the squirrel which Picasso keeps assuringÂ him, after each reworking, is still there. The squirrel continues to haunt Braque to the point where he isÂ consumed by anger and remorse. (And this, oddly enough, is a comedy.)
The problem is, put a new web design under someoneâ€™s nose and they instantly become an art critic.Â This can be an especially big problem if thereâ€™s a team of people deciding on the new look for your newÂ website â€“ you could easily end up with a â€˜camelâ€™ (you know, a horse designed by committee). EveryoneÂ will have an opinion, everyone will see different things and they all will like or dislike different parts of theÂ design.
So, if youâ€™re in the throes of reviewing a new web design then consider beginning by getting a writtenÂ explanation of the design approach after you have spent a little time reviewing it. So, avoidingÂ being â€˜accidentally programmedâ€™ by the designerâ€™s comments.
Then take this one step further. The best people to advise you on a new website design are your clientsÂ (this almost never happens in real life). Yet isn’t it obvious that ultimately the design has to appeal toÂ your customers rather than you? I bet you know two or three tame and trusted clients whose adviceÂ you could seek. In fact, I bet they would be really impressed that you had bothered to ask their opinion.Â (Remember, you may have really expensive taste but what you sell may be inexpensive. If the designÂ reflected your personal tastes rather than your prospectâ€™s thereâ€™s no doubt it would put them off buying.)
Web design is based on artistic values with a purpose superimposed. However, as with all things visual itÂ is subjective and subject to our values, prejudices and preconceptions. So be fair to the design and handÂ it around the people who really matter, the clients, and get their feedback first.