At Industrial, we are fortunate to work with clients across all stages of projects and in varying roles. Although we love working on a project from discovery to launch, that is not always the case. As digital partners for our clients, we’ll often team up with client design teams or other marketing agencies to collaborate on a solution, using our technical expertise to bring an outside design team’s vision to life.
Based on our experience implementing these projects, we’ve learned to always build in time for UX and design consultation from our team. Why? Designing for the web comes with its own set of challenges and considerations that not all in-house teams, marketing professionals, or graphic designers have the practical knowledge to plan for. I’ve gathered a list of 6 common issues we encounter when working with someone else’s design.
1. Skipping planning and architecture
Although we can understand the temptation to jump right into mockups, designing a successful and user-friendly website starts way before beautiful banner images and font selection. It’s critical to get the foundation of your website right, which means spending the appropriate time in the planning phase.
We get it; it’s not always glamorous or exciting, but taking the time to reflect on your users, their goals, and your business strategy to meet those challenges can (and should) dramatically impact your design decisions. Not to mention the available content.
From here, organizing your content and features into an information architecture that supports your strategy is key to creating the right structure to support your design. An often overlooked component of the architecture is the identification of unique content types. In conjunction with templates, these content types become the building blocks of your site and should be planned early. Designers without a good grasp of how a content management system works may have difficulty planning this without support.
Whether you’re redesigning your entire site or microsite or just building out a new section, having a good grasp of goals and how your design will fit with the architecture will save many headaches down the line.
2. Forgetting to position for growth
Another common issue we encounter when clients come to us with design in hand is an abundance of custom templates designed specifically for the content you have right now. While this sounds good in theory, we urge our clients always to remember - digital ink never dries. In other words, things change. Content, services, and strategies evolve. Your website needs to be able to adapt.
We recommend being thoughtful about the unique templates you build for your website. Try not to bloat your website with custom templates for every page (Spoiler: this becomes a real pain to manage, but I’ll get to that later). Instead, consider a more flexible approach. In these situations, we’ll often guide our clients toward finding common elements that can apply to multiple types of content. We can help our client take a step back from the words on the page and think of templates as a tool that will be used in many scenarios.
3. Failing accessibility
This one’s a biggie, and the most common, even when working with experienced designers. At Industrial, we’ve dedicated years to learning how to design and build inclusive websites that are accessible for everyone. This means planning for physical and cognitive disabilities, assistive technologies, and following best practices that benefit all users. Every one of our team members considers this in each step of our process, and it is a core part of the work we do every day. This type of knowledge just isn’t something all teams or designers have.
Top issues include:
- Failing colour contrast requirements for text
- Text in images
- Incorrect tab order
- Inconsistent semantic structure
- Issues with navigation and interactions
- We conduct an accessibility review on every design ahead of implementation and recommend changes to ensure the final product can meet WCAG 2.0 (soon to be 2.1) AA standards. This often means compromises to the visual presentation from the first draft, but we’re here to help you achieve your vision without excluding users.
For more about accessibility and WCAG 2.0, check out our Accessibility Action Plan.
4. Not considering responsiveness
Creating a beautiful layout is one thing. Creating a beautiful layout that can adapt to any screen size is a different matter entirely. These days we know users come to your website from all sorts of devices, and there is no definitive list of screen sizes that a designer can turn to when designing a website. Because of this, we need to be sure the design can adapt fluidly.
Planning how layout elements will stack or how interactions will adjust for touch screens are some of the considerations that will come naturally to a good web designer, but that may be missed by others creating layouts. To create a successful website design, these things must be considered early to ensure consistent experiences for your users.
5. Complicated content management and administration
At the end of the day, your website is a content delivery system. The importance of simple, intuitive content management and administration is often underestimated by designers who don’t participate in the development process. A nice-looking template may go to waste if the content admin can’t figure out how to use it or if it’s too laborious to populate.
Understanding how admins will manage the content on the website should influence design decisions. Choosing from a list of 20+ templates when you just want to publish some content is not ideal. On the flip side, having a single template overloaded with a gazillion options can also be troublesome. At Industrial, we always consider both the front end user and the admin user, ensuring we balance effective, flexible content management with engaging layouts.
6. No awareness of technical feasibility
Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough the value of having at least some technical knowledge, or access to it, when it comes to design. There’s nothing worse than sitting across the table (or Zoom call) from a developer telling you your design cannot be implemented. Please, let’s avoid that if we can.
No one wants to be a stick in the mud, but we’ve been presented with many designs that leave us scratching our heads as to how we would go about building it.
To be fair, almost anything is possible, but in reality, we’re all operating within some constraints. Whether it be budget, scope, timeline, accessibility, or other technical limitations, there are many reasons why your dream design may not be workable. Designer portfolios are too often full of beautiful mockups that never had a hope of becoming a reality.
At Industrial, our designers work side by side with our developers, which gives us all the opportunity to learn from each other. As a team, we understand how to deliver the best possible solution within whatever constraints are in place.
Industrial has been around for 21 years and we have collaborated with our clients on hundreds of web development projects. The most important thing we’ve learned over that time is that true collaboration requires a meaningful co-creation framework. At Industrial, we’ve developed a substantive co-creation process that makes sure we are working with our clients, not just for our clients. We make sure important considerations around user experience, design and accessibility are not forgotten along the journey.
Leverage our expertise – that’s what we’re here for! Our years of experience designing and building accessible, responsive, user-friendly websites make us an invaluable partner for taking your vision to the next level.