How to design websites that stand out
It has never been easier to make a website, and our digital toolbox has never been greater. At the same time, we seem more concerned with automating our process and systemising design than with creative thinking and generating ideas.
Why do so many websites look alike these days?
EB: Creating something different – be it a website, a car, a building, or a kettle – is difficult. We have a tendency to mimic what we like, and stepping outside of the mainstream comes with real risk attached.
Prevailing aesthetic preferences affect not only us, but also our clients and their audiences, which makes it challenging to sell anything that looks too different from what’s currently out there. What’s more, bucking UI trends and established patterns requires more brain power from our users, which can affect conversion or engagement.
That said, there is ample opportunity to stand out without upsetting the general balance of things. Consider books, for example. Their overall shape and function won’t change any time soon, but the stories within them are infinitely diverse. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hung up on how our websites look, but focus more on the stories we tell on them.
It’s easy to build a great-looking site that’s fast and has a great user experience, so why design something that’s the opposite?
EB: The long answer to this question is the wonderful story of how lingscars.com – a beacon of bad design – became an international phenomenon.
The short answer is that of course we shouldn’t – designing for the opposite of best practice is a really bad idea.
Then again, perhaps we should be asking ourselves a different question. Why design something that’s only fast and good looking? If usability and aesthetics are our only concern, why do we need more than one font? Why paint cars in more than one colour? Why not wear uniforms to work?
The answer is individual expression. What we should get better at is designing fast, user-friendly websites that are also personable, emotional and expressive. If all other factors are equal, memorability wins.
How can storytelling (and comedy specifically) help create better websites?
EB: Whenever we put words to a page we’re telling stories, meaning storytelling is intrinsic to design – whether we like it or not. The key to good design, therefore, is to learn how to tell our stories well and to create meaningful, emotional connections with our readers and visitors.
Comedy – meaning anything that pushes our imagination beyond the mere efficiency of any given interface – is a key part of that. For example, if Bill Bryson had only focused on efficiency in his Short History of Nearly Everything, we’d be left with a pile of bullet points instead of a best-selling …read more
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