A friend of mine and I were discussing one of our recent website designs for a new customer. It happened to include an embellished fleur-de-lis and as we were reviewing the relative merits of the design she noted that she could see Dumbo the elephant in profile in one of the arms. It took me a while, but there it was, Dumbo the elephant – 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 Picasso manages to convince his painter friend Braque that there is a squirrel in the bottom corner of one of his paintings. Braque becomes obsessed trying to obliterate the squirrel which Picasso keeps assuring him, after each reworking, is still there. The squirrel continues to haunt Braque to the point where he is consumed by anger and remorse. (And this, oddly enough, is a comedy.)
The problem is, put a new web design under someone’s nose and they instantly become an art critic. This can be an especially big problem if there’s a team of people deciding on the new look for your new website – you could easily end up with a ‘camel’ (you know, a horse designed by committee). Everyone will have an opinion, everyone will see different things and they all will like or dislike different parts of the design.
So, if you’re in the throes of reviewing a new web design then consider beginning by getting a written explanation of the design approach after you have spent a little time reviewing it. So, avoiding being ‘accidentally programmed’ by the designer’s comments.
Then take this one step further. The best people to advise you on a new website design are your clients (this almost never happens in real life). Yet isn’t it obvious that ultimately the design has to appeal to your customers rather than you? I bet you know two or three tame and trusted clients whose advice you could seek. In fact, I bet they would be really impressed that you had bothered to ask their opinion. (Remember, you may have really expensive taste but what you sell may be inexpensive. If the design reflected your personal tastes rather than your prospect’s there’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 it is subjective and subject to our values, prejudices and preconceptions. So be fair to the design and hand it around the people who really matter, the clients, and get their feedback first.