Redesigning The Wheel: A Web Designer’s Internal Dialogue

by Michael Moores

Redesigning The Wheel: A Web Designer’s Internal Dialogue

by Michael Moores

by Michael Moores

As a web designer in an eCommerce consulting company, I am constantly fighting an internal battle when designing an interface for a new project. The struggle is between just dropping out-of-the-box Magento and default UI on the page versus creating some futuristic learned experience that accommodates devices we haven’t even thought of yet. Usually, I walk a path in between these two extremes. I do sway at times more one way than the other. This sway is typically caused by a gut feeling I’ve developed from years of client expectations, developer interrogations, user frustrations and designer community utopian aspirations. When a new design project is brought to me I run a series of checkpoints through my mind before understanding where I’m allowed my freedoms.

Budget

Client budget is a major factor in a site redesign. When budget isn’t an issue I am given the freedom to design unique experiences based on content and site goals. If budget is a concern then I’m challenged to design the best site I can while fitting it into a preselected template.

User Devices

What devices are the buyer personas using? Are they a wide range of operating systems and screen sizes? If the answer to this question is very general, a simpler UI that can make the best of varying screen sizes might be the best path. Sometimes though, the buyer personas are really only using a couple of specific devices. This knowledge can lead to a really unique user experience that takes advantage of the devices’ screen and capabilities.

Platform

Is the project platform specific? Being knowledgeable in the platform the site is built on, whether it’s WordPress or Magento, can be a huge advantage to a designer. Sometimes taking advantage of the existing functionality is the best option if it fulfills the goals of the page, website and/or the buyer persona(s). However, sometimes the platform falls short and needs a better user experience to solve a particular problem. In that case, pieces of the existing platform can be rethought or built upon to be improved.

Project Goals

Project goals are sometimes vague. “Increase my site visitors.” “Improve my ROI.” “Sell my new diddy-bop.” You can approach these goals several ways and usually the solutions to these types of problems have pretty standard UI pattern solutions.

Things get interesting when the project goals get specific and unique. “I want to give my users the ability to build a custom piece of furniture.” “I want my users to be able to find the part they need by using an interactive schematic tool.” “I want 18 to 30 years olds to buy this product after coming to the site from our viral video campaign.” I believe the more specific the goal, the more freedoms I have as a designer. How do I solve this problem using this platform and on these devices specifically? These solutions often require a little more creativity and redesigning of existing platform functionality and / or UI.

These are usually my initial questions that I ask with any new redesign. As a designer, how do you determine the amount of freedom you have with a redesign project? What specific details do you look for? Comment below and let’s get the discussion started!

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