One of the first things you hear when getting into web design is “you need to have a process”. As a beginner, you might spend a considerable amount of time reading numerous articles, watching countless videos on YouTube, study how other websites are designed and built, trying to figure out the “what” and the “how” of the process. Educating yourself is always positive, but the truth is, the only way to discover how to do your work, is by actually doing it. You need to explore first-hand all the phases of your project, from design thinking to design doing. So, I would rephrase the previous statement as “you need to establish your own process”.
Although design is a creative activity, it’s important to follow common design principles as a foundation upon which to build your work and consistently comply with. Don Norman, in his book “The Design of Everyday Things”, has a quite comprehensive way of explaining design principles as shortly listed below:
Visibility — When functions are clearly visible, users are more likely to know what to do next. When functions are “out of sight,” it makes them more difficult to find and know how to use.
Feedback — It is important to send back information about what action has been done and what has been accomplished, allowing the person to continue with the activity.
Constraints — Determine ways of restricting the kind of user interaction that can take place at a given moment.
Mapping — This refers to the relationship between controls and their effects in the world, such as the up and down arrows used to represent the movement of the cursor on a computer keyboard.
Consistency — Designing interfaces that have similar operations and use similar elements for achieving similar tasks. A consistent interface is one that follows rules, such as using the same operation to select all objects.
Affordance — is a term used to refer to an attribute of an object that allows people to know how to use it.
Once you have mastered the design principles and have read all the books out there on the topic, it comes natural developing your own guiding principles for specific design projects. It is about a set of decisions concerning the user experience (UX), user interface (UI), responsiveness, or other graphic elements you may decide to use in your project. This is where flexibility is applied, as long as you stick to the principles. As Jeff Raskin has put it in his notable book “The Humane Interface”:
“Creating an interface is much like building a house: If you don’t get the foundations right, no amount of decorating can fix the resulting structure.”
Designing for the web is a hugely satisfying activity where you’re free to experiment and put into practice your creative and functional design skills. It provides real value to users, helping them to easily reach and absorb content, as well as to website owners, helping them achieve their business and personal goals.