The idea for this post about the importance of process to innovative web design came about after a long standing client said they were awarding their web redesign to another agency because ‘they were a lot cheaper’. We were all left to wonder how a competitor could deliver similar outstanding quality for much a smaller budget?
When we enquired as to how another agency could deliver an innovative web design for a much lower fee we were advised by the technical guy that “the other team didn’t need to do case studies, wireframes etc”. These were antiquated. “Now you can design straight-to-screen!”
This led us to wonder; are research, benchmarking, use cases, analysis, planning, wireframes and UX now classed as ‘design relics’? Creative dinosaurs of a pre-template era? Is innovative web design now only a case of dragging pre-designed blocks into a stack, dragging in content and hitting publish? Does innovation requires no deeper thought any more? Does ingenuity no longer need reflection and consideration? Has inspiration crawled out of the depths of human contemplation to languish on the shallow shores of fast paced replication? We don’t think so, but let’s dig deeper.
Are wireframes redundant for web and digital design?
Our client was adamant; ‘wireframes were passé’! This ran contrary to understanding of the work involved in every great creative expression ever imagined, then realised, by mankind; from the Parthenon to the iPod, from the Mona Lisa to the Aston Martin DB7. Was creative process now defunct? Could these great works now be realised by juggling a few preconceived creative building blocks until genius occurred near instantaneously? Is this the new reality? Is this the singularity Kurzweil promised?
In Unisono’s digital design methodology, wire framing is as essential to our ideation process as sketches were to Foster, Giugaro or Dyson. The notion that you could skip such a time-honoured and vital step in the formulation of ideas illustrated that the IT Manager (who supposed such a notion) suffered attention deficiency more than he was trouble by the consideration an iterative design process. Sketching (or Wireframing as it’s known in web design agencies) was so integral to the digital and web design process that even a highly popular App was named after it; Sketch. This App was created to make the prototyping of web design via interactive wireframes faster than ever; not to avoid them altogether.
Why are block builder tools no good at innovative web and digital design
As you will read later, a clear and professional digital and web design methodology, promotes innovation at every step. Building a site using a template or pre designed block doesn’t limit so much as deny innovation and reduces alignment to a set of very narrow objectives. Objectives defined by the creator of the template or blocks based on someone else’s brief.
Template sites and building block apps are good for cheap and basic sites with few exoteric requirements but they struggle to deliver innovative web design solutions. For example; the web design tool Bloxx showcases sites they have built with the App, such as their version of Apple’s innovative, parallax-infused presentation of the MacMini Pro. On face value the Bloxx site is a pretty good homage but all the joyful detail and nuance is lost. The animations are all standard Bloxx animations and there are no animated charts builds, as these were all custom designed and coded by Apple. In short, the Bloxx version is a cheaper looking, less interactive and less joyful version.
Are WordPress templates able to provide innovative web design?
Another approach many web agencies are taking is to repurpose templates based on popular CMS platforms (or web standards) such as WordPress. These are great for fast and cheap sites but there is no room for innovation as all the sites pages are pre-built. The site you get is the same recut, re-versioning of an existing site, it’s digital cookie cutting.
But what’s wrong with that? In my experience the web is a fascinating place with masses of innovative sites and brilliant content but what appears to be trending is a replacement of original design (albeit not all great) with a slew of formulaic, repetitive presentations of bland and ill considered content. On a platform famed for diversity as broad as the human family, the web is starting to suffer from vanilla homogeneity. This isn’t a good thing.
Original design requires original thinking and craft. Imagine if Picasso was to create his master pieces using only previously painted pictures that every other artist could use. He wouldn’t have made it past his Blue period. Design innovation requires original thinking and this requires time and effort and your brand deserves to be represented by a design that suites your specific objectives. That design isn’t going to be found in a template.
Innovation takes original thoughts - these often need time to percolate!
I'm probably creative for half an hour a day. The rest of the time, I'm just doing what's necessary to make that creativity visible.Gary Hume
Innovative mobile experience created for Adara by Unisono
Innovative web design for Saudi real estate superbrand, Ajdan Rise